As Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner convalesces in the presidential residence after surgery, a poor prognosis for her political and economic agenda awaits her outside. Yet the populist leader is unlikely to respond with major policy initiatives as she enters a prolonged lame duck period.

Fernandez faces big losses in Sunday’s mid-term congressional elections, which will likely determine how much legislative clout she can muster. Hope for her third presidential mandate is all but extinguished. Under her administration, Latin America’s third largest economy is slipping further behind the region’s top two — Brazil and Mexico — and looking ever more like the laggard Venezuela.

The 60-year-old Peronist leader was ordered to rest after an emergency operation to remove blood from the surface of her brain, sidelining her from the campaigning she led earlier to keep “Kirchnerismo” alive.

First elected in 2007, Fernandez implemented a raft of interventionist policies that have made her popular with the poor but no darling of business and investors: regulation of the critical grains sector, protectionist trade policies, currency controls and nationalization of the oil company and private pension system.

She had a glimpse of the unraveling of Kirchnerismo in August, when her candidates won just 26 percent of the vote in primaries. Opinion polls and analysts forecast that she’ll likely lose ground in many key provinces on Sunday. And while she translated sympathy for her husband’s death in 2010 into votes that reelected her a year later, Fernandez doesn’t appear set to benefit from a similar bounce after her illness.