Tue, Oct 25, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Fernandez celebrates election landslide

‘HISTORIC’:Fernandez is the first woman to be re-elected president in Latin America after continuing the policies of her late husband, who steered the country out of default

AFP, BUENOS AIRES

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez speaks to supporters after winning the general elections in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez celebrated a landslide re-election victory in presidential elections yesterday, on the back of booming economic growth and sympathy a year after the death of her husband.

“I’m the first woman to be re-elected president. I don’t want anything more,” the center-left politician said in an emotional speech in Buenos Aires, after partial results gave her more than 53 percent of the vote.

The victory, celebrated by thousands of blue and white flag-waving supporters in front of the pink presidential palace, gave Fernandez the strongest mandate for an Argentine president since the end of the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

Her closest rival, Hermes Binner, won 17 percent, according to the results from Argentine Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo, with 64 percent of votes counted.

“I’m impressed by the figures and infinitely grateful,” Fernandez said. “If we’d spoken of these figures barely two years ago, they’d have thought we were mad.”

The 58-year-old incumbent has risen in the polls since losing a fierce battle with soya farmers over taxes in 2008, aided by high prices for farm exports in the vast nation of 40 million.

She pushed forward with popular social programs started by her husband, former Argentine president Nestor Kirchner, when he took office in 2003, including for pensions and child benefits, as well as subsidies for transport and utilities.

Kirchner had been expected to stand for another four-year term before he died.

“He’s here more than ever,” Fernandez said on Sunday, also thanking a string of Latin American leaders, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, for their support.

Kirchner was credited with lifting the country out of its financial meltdown of 2001 by restructuring massive debts and promoting spending.

He cut off talks with the IMF after Argentina defaulted on about US$100 billion in foreign debts. Glamorous and known for her sharp tongue, Fernandez has shown a more consensual style, making efforts to improve relations with key sectors like industry and agriculture.

She needed just 40 percent to win if her nearest rival was more than 10 points behind, or 45 percent for an outright win.

The difference between her and her main rival was “historic,” New Majority Institute analyst Rosendo Fraga said.

However, socialist Binner also celebrated after a first victory for his political movement over Argentina’s radical party.

Media reports said Fernandez had also won back control of the Argentine Congress, where 130 seats were at play and kept control of the Argentine Senate, where 24 seats were being disputed.

Kirchnerism belongs to the diverse and powerful Peronist movement of three-time former Argentine president Juan Peron and his populist second wife, Evita.

Many Argentines see Fernandez’s policies as the safest bet for the economy amid uncertainty in Europe and the US.

“I think it’s the best we’ve got. Human beings have a right to basic help from the government, like pensions,” 63-year-old teacher Monica Bietti said after she voted in a Buenos Aires school.

Fernandez’s divided opponents failed to convince voters they could do more to reduce runaway inflation — which independent analysts estimate at almost 25 percent per year, more than double the official figures.

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