Tue, Aug 13, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Argentine voters turn to predecessor’s ticket

AP, BUENOS AIRES

A supporter of presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez holds up a handkerchief with photos of him and his running mate, former president Cristina Fernandez, outside the “Frente de Todos” party headquarters after primary elections in Buenos Aires on Sunday.

Photo: AP

Facing widespread discontent over austerity measures and low growth, Argentine President Mauricio Macri was snubbed by voters, who appeared to hand a resounding primary victory to a ticket with his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez.

The preliminary results from Sunday’s voting suggest the conservative Macri would face an uphill battle going into general elections in October, marking a sharp turnaround from just under four years ago when the nation’s left-leaning era appeared to be coming to a definitive end.

With 88 percent of polling stations tallied early yesterday, official results gave the presidential slate headed by Alberto Fernandez and his vice presidential running mate, Cristina Fernandez, about 47 percent of the votes.

Macri and his running mate, Miguel Angel Pichetto, had 32 percent — a wide margin that revealed the considerable depth of Macri’s weakness, potentially positioning the Fernandez team to win in the first round of voting on Oct. 27.

To be elected president in the first round, candidates need to finish with at least 45 percent of the votes or have 40 percent and a greater than 10-point advantage over the nearest rival. If no candidate wins outright in October, there will be a November runoff.

“We’ve had a bad election and that obligates us to redouble our efforts so that in October we will continue with change,” Macri said in a late night address. “I think it is very important a dialogue continues in this country, and that we continue explaining to the world what it is we want.”

Former economy minister Roberto Lavagna trailed far behind the two front-running slates with 8.4 percent of the votes, which is still potentially enough support to give him a kingmaker role in the fall.

Six other presidential slates also were up for elections in the primaries, but parties that got less than 1.5 percent of the overall votes cast will not appear on the October ballot.

The pro-business Macri has the support of financial markets and Washington, but has lost popularity amid a deep economic crisis, which drove inflation to nearly 50 percent last year and slashed Argentines’ purchasing power.

He says he is taking the necessary, painful steps to get the economy going after 12 years of leftist populism under Cristina Fernandez and her predecessor and late husband, Nestor Kirchner.

However, the electorate issued a resounding rejection of his handling of the economic situation — and a recent lending package from the IMF that totaled upward of US$55 billion.

Most Argentines blame the IMF for encouraging policies that led to the country’s worst economic crisis in 2001, which resulted in one of every five Argentines being unemployed and millions sliding into poverty.

“It’s clear that Macri’s weakest point is the management of the economy, despite the fact that it has improved in the last three months,” said Mariel Fornoni, director of the political consultancy Management & Fit.

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