Right wing opposition polls well in Argentina’s primaries

Country is set for most open presidential election in years after period of Peronist rule

Mayor of Buenos Aires Mauricio Macri, who is attempting to become the first right-wing politician to secure Argentina’s presidency in free elections, speaking on Sunday as the results of primary elections began to come in. Photograph: AFP/Telam/Alejandro Santa Cruz

Mayor of Buenos Aires Mauricio Macri, who is attempting to become the first right-wing politician to secure Argentina’s presidency in free elections, speaking on Sunday as the results of primary elections began to come in. Photograph: AFP/Telam/Alejandro Santa Cruz

 

Argentina is set for its most open presidential election in years after primaries held on Sunday showed the country’s right-wing opposition was unusually competitive ahead of October’s general election.

Daniel Scioli, the governor of Buenos Aires province and the only presidential candidate of the populist Peronist movement’s ruling faction, took the largest share of the national primary vote with 38.4 per cent, as he confirmed his frontrunner status in the presidential race.

But with most results counted, the centre-right Cambiemos alliance had taken 30.1 per cent of the vote to come second, as Mauricio Macri comfortably beat two rivals to secure its presidential nomination. He will now attempt to become the first right-wing politician to secure Argentina’s presidency in free elections.

Run-off

Cristina Kirchner

In the event of a run-off the key will likely rest with voters for Sergio Massa, who won the nomination of the dissident Peronist United for a New Alternative alliance, which took 20 per cent of Sunday’s poll.

In Argentina’s presidential system, to avoid a run-off a first-round winner must secure 45 per cent of the poll or 40 per cent with a 10 point advantage over the second- placed candidate.

After his victory Mr Scioli immediately started courting the voters of fellow-Peronist Mr Massa, identifying “points of agreement” between their two programmes.

Peronist frontrunner

“The election is wide open,” he said in a radio interview after the results were in.

Both Mr Massa and Mr Scioli served under Ms Kirchner, but both have sought to distance themselves from her as dissatisfaction with her administration grew in recent years.

But while Mr Massa broke definitively with the president two years ago, Mr Scioli remained loyal, despite often vicious attacks from her more radical supporters, to ensure he got her backing for his presidential bid.

In Buenos Aires province Ms Kirchner’s powerful cabinet chief Aníbal Fernández narrowly defeated his Peronist rival to secure the party’s nomination to replace Mr Scioli as governor of the country’s most populous province.

Mr Fernández had to face accusations of involvement in the drugs trade in the run-up to the vote.