REUTERS - Former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner will run for a seat in Congress in a bid to bolster the left-leaning ruling party in June 28 mid-term elections, a leading government official said on Saturday.
Kirchner heads the Peronist party but is widely seen as unofficially running the government alongside his wife, President Cristina Fernandez, whose popularity has sunk due to economic woes and a prolonged tax war with farmers.
Kirchner will head a list of congressional candidates from his party in the major electoral battleground of Buenos Aires province, the region's governor, Daniel Scioli, said.
Fernandez supporters hope his candidacy will strengthen the pro-government list of candidates running under Argentina's proportional representation system and help the Argentine leader keep her congressional majority.
A weak showing, analysts say, will leave his wife's center-left government and the couple's political clout significantly weakened.
Political uncertainty has heightened in Argentina ahead of the vote because of concerns that Fernandez will be unable to govern effectively if her allies fare poorly.
Half of the 256-seat lower house and one third of 72 senators will be elected next month, and some opinion polls show Fernandez likely to lose her majority in the legislature.
In recent public appearances, Kirchner warned voters that if they did not support the ruling party Argentina could return to the political and economic chaos of 2001-2002, when bank deposits were frozen and the currency was devalued.
The opposition has accused Fernandez of moving ahead the election, originally scheduled for October, so that it would occur before an economic slowdown linked to the global recession eroded support for her government.
Kirchner enjoyed high approval ratings during his 2003-2007 term in office, when he oversaw an economic rebound. There is speculation that he will seek the presidency again when his wife's term ends in 2011.
Fernandez has battled high inflation, a tax revolt by farmers, a looming debt financing crunch and complaints of high crime.
Argentine political analyst Rosendo Fraga said the political showdown with farmers was expected to cost the government significant numbers of votes in key areas of the interior of the country.
"It's clear the government will be left politically weaker to face a situation made more difficult by the global economic crisis," he said.
Just weeks ago, Kirchner and his allies were leading the race in Buenos Aires province, where 35 seats in the lower house are up for grabs. Recent polls show a victory will be slim or elusive as candidates from a dissident faction of the Peronist party have gained ground.
If the Kirchner-led ticket is not the top vote-getter in the key province, it will be read as a devastating loss because it is one of the few areas of the country where he and his wife are still fairly popular.
Since taking office in December 2007, Fernandez has increased state intervention in the economy and financial markets, taking over the private pension fund system and the main airline, and has been accused of distorting key economic data.
She failed to implement the cornerstone of her economic policy, a higher tax on exports of Argentina's biggest crop, soy, which she said she would use to distribute wealth from a recent commodities boom.