Argentina’s opposition takes on mighty Peronists in run-off vote

Centre-right opposition led by Mauricio Macri has good chance of winning presidency

Opposition presidential candidate Mauricio Macri casts his vote  in Buenos Aires in presidential election in which he is up against Daniel Scioli from the ruling party. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Opposition presidential candidate Mauricio Macri casts his vote in Buenos Aires in presidential election in which he is up against Daniel Scioli from the ruling party. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

 

Argentines voted in a run-off election on Sunday that hands the centre-right opposition, led by Mauricio Macri, its best chance in more than a decade to wrest the presidency from the populist Peronists and set the economy on a more free-market course.

In a sign of Argentines’ weariness with a spluttering economy, rising crime and corruption, Macri went into the country’s first ever second-round ballot with a comfortable lead in opinion polls over his ruling party rival Daniel Scioli.

Outgoing president Cristina Fernandez, who was preceded in office by her late husband Nestor Kirchner, is as loved by the poor for her generous welfare programmes as she is reviled by others for her confrontational style and the controls she put on the economy.

“We need a change,” said Carlos Mombru, a 72-year-old retired engineer whose two sons left Argentina in search of better work opportunities during Fernandez’s rule.

“This country doesn’t have an economic problem, it has a political problem,” he said, referring to Argentina’s rich hydrocarbon and metal resources, as well as its powerful grains industry.

Barred from seeking a third straight term, Fernandez will leave office next month with Argentina deeply divided between those who back her protectionist policies and defence of workers’ rights and those who back the opposition’s neoliberal policies.

Scioli lost his front-runner status after the October 25th first-round vote, when Macri unexpectedly came in right on his heels. – (Reuters)