Argentina elections mark end of Kirchner era

BUENOS AIRES • It was Argentina's first presidential election in 12 years not to feature a Kirchner - either President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner or her late husband, Nestor Kirchner.

Argentinians yesterday went to the polls, with Buenos Aires provincial governor Daniel Scioli, who is from Ms Fernandez's Victory Front alliance, pitted against opposition candidate Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires.

During the election campaign, both candidates promised some degree of change from Ms Fernandez's economic policies, which include currency controls, trade protectionism and price controls.

However, Mr Scioli said that he would stick with her popular welfare programmes.

"We are what's known, and people are not in the mood for experiments," Mr Scioli said on Thursday, the last day of campaigning.

Mr Sergio Massa, Ms Fernandez's former Cabinet chief who broke away to form a dissident Peronist alliance, trails the front runners in voter opinion surveys. He has positioned himself midway between Mr Scioli's pledge of gradual change and Mr Macri's plans for deeper and faster reform.

Even though Mr Scioli is favoured to win, avoiding a second round on Nov 22 will depend on whether he can attract more than 40 per cent of the votes while holding a 10 percentage point lead over his rivals.

Polls show him on the cusp of achieving that, gaining an average of 39.7 per cent, against 28.8 per cent for Mr Macri.

Argentinians are also voting to choose a vice-president, half of the 257-member Lower House of Congress, a third of the 72-member Senate, the governors of 11 provinces, mayors, lawmakers and senators for provincial legislatures, and members of the Mercosur trade bloc's Parliament.

About 20 million Argentinians are registered to vote across the length of a country that stretches from the southernmost city in the world to Andean villages where ballots are transported by mule.

When Argentina's next president takes office on Dec 10, he will inherit a country troubled by inflation, an overvalued currency and an economy facing what the International Monetary Fund predicts will be a contraction of 0.7 per cent for next year.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2015, with the headline 'Argentina elections mark end of Kirchner era'. Print Edition | Subscribe