Argentina opposition candidate forces election run-off
Argentina’s presidential elections are set to continue to a run-off vote next month in a blow for the leftist government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner after a turnround....
Benedict Mander in Buenos Aires
Argentina’s presidential elections are set to continue to a run-off vote next month in a blow for the leftist government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner after a turnround in the fortunes of the opposition candidate, Mauricio Macri.
“What happened today changes the politics of this country,” Mr Macri, the centre-right mayor of Buenos Aires and former president of Boca Juniors football club told a crowd of euphoric supporters amid balloons and blaring music.
“It is today, it is here, it is now. Let’s go Argentina!” he bellowed, before breaking into a dance.
Mr Macri was almost neck-and-neck early on Monday morning with Daniel Scioli, Ms Fernández’s anointed successor, who billed himself as the continuity candidate. Mr Scioli was slightly ahead with 36 per cent of the vote while Mr Macri had 35 per cent, with 88 per cent of ballots counted.
Opinion polls had shown Mr Macri lagging behind Mr Scioli by about 10 percentage points — casting doubt on whether he would even be able to prevent the government-backed candidate from winning outright — analysts now say he has a good chance of removing the ruling Peronist party from power after 12 years.
Argentina’s unique electoral rules require the winner to receive more than 45 per cent of the vote to avoid a second round, or 40 per cent with a 10-point lead over the runner-up. With no candidate achieving these conditions, the vote will now go to a run-off on November 22.
The outcome will greatly depend on those who voted for Sergio Massa, a dissident Peronist, who came third with about 21 per cent. The former cabinet chief of Ms Fernández refrained from throwing his weight behind either candidate in a speech on Sunday night, although analysts expect the majority of his voters to back Mr Macri.
Although initial results were not published until after midnight, Mr Scioli appeared before supporters earlier in the evening to give a speech aimed at winning over undecided voters.
He played on concerns that Mr Macri would represent a return to the neoliberal policies that characterised Argentina in the 1990s, culminating in the 2001 economic crisis and what was then the biggest sovereign debt default in history.
“Changes have to go forwards, not backwards, and always include the most in need,” said a humbled Mr Scioli. “Argentines don’t want to go back to [macroeconomic] adjustments, devaluations and indebtedness. My commitment is to be a president who represents all Argentines, not just a few.”
With Argentines also voting for congressional deputies, senators and regional governors on Sunday, perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the victory for the candidate for Mr Macri’s “Let’s Change” coalition in the province of Buenos Aires, by far the most populous in the country with about 37 per cent of the nation’s voters.
María Eugenia Vidal was leading with almost 40 per cent of the vote in what has traditionally been a Peronist stronghold owing to its large working-class population. The government’s candidate, Aníbal Fernández, who is the president’s cabinet chief but no relation to the president, was trailing with 35 per cent.
“Tonight we are making history,” Ms Vidal told ecstatic supporters. “We made the impossible possible. We changed resignation for hope, sadness for enthusiasm and joy, the past for the future.” /The Financial Times