The Peronist Party, implanted in Argentina as the voice of the workers and the poor by Juan D. Peron and his wife Eva four decades ago, is in a resurgence it hopes will bring victory in presidential elections set for May.
It has been out of power for 12 years.Virtually every poll gives Peronist Carlos Saul Menem, a colorful provincial governor, a commanding lead over the candidate of the governing Radical Civic Union, Eduardo Angeloz.
Provincial and congressional elections last year reversed Peronist setbacks in 1983, when civilian government was restored after nearly eight years of military dictatorship during which Peronist politicians, including Menem, were jailed, Peronist teachers were dismissed from universities and labor leaders were arrested and executed.
In September 1987, Peronist candidates swept 17 of the country's 22 provinces, including Buenos Aires, the biggest. The party's inroads in the House of Deputies eliminated the Radical's majority.
"In 1983, it wasn't Alfonsin against Luder, it was the Radicals against the Peronists," losing candidate Italo Argentino Luder said in an interview, referring to Raul Alfonsin. Alfonsin swamped Luder, 52 percent to 40 percent in the balloting for president in post-military Argentina.
"Now, it is totally different," the 71-year-old Luder said. "The economy is the biggest theme - inflation, foreign debt, growth, employment, purchasing power . . . (and) the Radicals have totally failed in government."
Pollster Manuel Mora y Araujo's surveys consistently give Menem twice as big a share of the vote as Angeloz, though he notes that undecideds have crept up to 35 percent.
"You can't say (Menem's) victory is beyond doubt, but he's definitely ahead," the pollster said.