Mon, Oct 29, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Argentina's first lady likely to become next president


Argentina's version of Hillary Clinton, first lady Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, was taking it easy at home far from the bustle of Buenos Aires on Saturday, ahead of an election almost certain to make her president.

Fernandez was spending the weekend with her husband and outgoing president, Nestor Kirchner, in their house in Rio Gallegos in the chilly and sparsely populated Patagonia region in far southern Argentina.

The couple arrived from the capital late on Friday on board the presidential jet Tango One as restrictions on campaigning ahead of Sunday's vote kicked in.

According to all the last voter surveys, Fernandez can afford to relax.

Her numbers are so high she is expected to easily sweep the elections and emerge as the successor to Kirchner, who is stepping aside for her after only one four-year term.

That would make her Argentina's first elected woman president (Juan Peron's third wife and vice president, Isabel Peron, was made briefly head of state on his death in 1974 before a military coup ousted her).

The only suspense left is whether Fernandez will carry off outright victory in the elections Sunday -- as the polls predict -- or be forced to contest a knockout round next month against the second-placed candidate.

A few of the 13 politicians trailing her dared to hope there would be an upset.

"I think there is a certain possibility of a second round. It depends on the undecided voters, on people voting for other candidates voting for us," Elisa Carrio, seen as coming a distant second in the polls, told La Nacion newspaper.

"If there is a second round, I will lead the people, the voters," candidate Roberto Lavagna, a former economy minister credited with steering Argentina's economy back from its 2001 collapse, told the daily.

In a campaign speech on Thursday, she referred to the popular leftist policies overseen by her husband and vowed more of the same.

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