Argentina's Macri faces setback as Fernandez sees primary win

With more than half of the vote counted, opposition receives 47 percent of the vote, against the incumbent’s 32 percent.

    Buenos Aires, Argengtina – Buckling under the weight of an economic crisis, voters in Argentina gave Alberto Fernandez and his running mate, former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, a victory in the presidential primaries on Sunday, dealing a setback on incumbent President Mauricio Macri.

    With 58 percent of votes counted, Fernandez, who is running under Frente de Todos, received 47 percent of the vote, against Macri’s 32 percent.

    The official final results have yet to be announced, but Macri has already acknowledged that he and his party, Junto por el Cambio, had a “bad election”.

    “Tomorrow we’ll have to redouble our efforts, to ensure that in October, we can continue with our change,” said Macri referring to the general elections. Macri was flanked by his vice presidential running mate, Miguel Angel Pichetto, and other disappointed political allies.

    The primaries are meant to settle internal battles in the parties, but they also act as a bellwether ahead of the October 27 polls.

    The winner needs to achieve at least 45 percent or between 40 and 44 percent, and a ten point lead over the nearest challenger, to win outright.

    Failing that, voters will go to a runoff in November.

    Voting is mandatory over the age of 18, and optional for people over the age of 70 and 16 and 17-year-olds. The official results was delayed more than an hour, with local media reporting failures in the software that scrutinise the votes.

    This election is being fought on two key issues – the battered economy that has seen inflation skyrocket, the currency plummet in value, factories close and workers lose jobs.

    Looming large is the presence of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s name in the ballot. She completed two terms as president, ushering in greater levels of social spending. Alongside her deceased husband, former president Nestor Carlos Kirchner, they built up a powerful left wing political block known as Kirchnerismo. 

    By the time her term came to an end, allegations of corruption and a faltering economy dominated the conversation, and Macri eked out a win in 2015 on a promise for change.

    What’s next for the country?

    Macri quickly slashed subsidies, and cut spending, but his reforms have not delivered and things are worse, according to analysts.

    Macri also came under fire by the opposition for the $57bn bailout deal he negotiated with the International Monetary Fund.

    On Monday, all eyes will be on how the markets respond. On Sunday, Macri said the October election will decide “the next thirty years in Argentina”.

    “We have heard the vote of the people, we believe in democracy,” he said.

    “The level of difficulties we have had to confront these last few years, has led to a lot of anguish, a lot of doubt, but I insist: I am here to help you, I’m here because I love this country, and I believe in each of you, and I believe in what we can all do.”

    Sunday’s results thrilled voter Claudia Rivero, a grandmother, who said she never had faith in Macri.

    Rivero lives in Jose C. Paz, a municipality in the Greater Buenos Aires area, known as the “conurbano”, where she says the level of poverty is rising.

    “When Cristina was here, I worked three days a week, and I worked four hours a day and the money was enough. Now I have to work all week, eight hours a day,” she said. “In my house, all of us will vote for Cristina. I think things will improve a lot. I have faith in her.”

    Another voter, Oscar Perez, a taxi driver, has also seen his lot decline. He had to move to a more affordable neighbourhood, and no longer considers himself in the middle class. But he sees this period of time as a “transition.”

    “I’m not saying that he is the best, because evidently I’m not doing better. But compared to what there was and what Macri offers, as an alternative, a door of hope, I would rather have this,” he said.

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