Primary win boosts Argentina's president
Updated: 2011-08-16 08:29
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is embraced by her daughter Florencia after hearing the first results of the nationwide primary election in Buenos Aires on Sunday. [Photo/Agencies]
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Center-left Argentine President Cristina Fernandez looks set to win a second term in October and deepen her interventionist policies after thrashing rivals in a primary election, results showed on Monday.
With more than 93 percent of polling stations counted, Fernandez had just over 50 percent of the votes - 38 points ahead of the closest contender, centrist opposition congressman Ricardo Alfonsin, the government election authority said.
Sunday's primary was effectively a nationwide opinion poll because parties had already chosen their candidates and voters could cast ballots for any party's candidate.
The results showed Fernandez has no real competitor in the Oct 23 election and is on track for a first round win.
But she faces major challenges, including taming inflation estimated at over 25 percent without hurting growth and cutting spending in the major grains producer, and finding a way to repay debt without draining central bank reserves.
"I voted for Cristina because I see my children's progress. They all have jobs, homes, cars. We used to travel by donkey," said Aida Peralta, 81, as she celebrated to the sound of drumming outside the president's campaign headquarters.
Cheering supporters waved flags and images of her late husband and presidential predecessor, Nestor Kirchner. Some held aloft images of Argentine-born revolutionary icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
Her two main opponents, Alfonsin and former president Eduardo Duhalde, a dissident from her own Peronist party, fared worse than expected, polling only around 12 percent each. The law prohibits them from forming an alliance.
Fernandez, 58, has also enraged farmers and grain exporters with corn and wheat export curbs and policies that strengthen the hand of the state in Latin America's third-largest economy.
Despite this, Fernandez won strong support in urban and rural areas - including farming centers - and has a wide lead in opinion polls. Turnout was high at nearly 78 percent.