Rise of right in presidential poll leads to Argentina’s first run-off vote

Daniel Scioli and Mauricio Macri to face each other again on November 22nd

Mauricio Macri: attempting to become the first right-wing politician to be elected president in Argentina’s history.  Photograph: Patricio Pidal/Bloomberg.

Mauricio Macri: attempting to become the first right-wing politician to be elected president in Argentina’s history. Photograph: Patricio Pidal/Bloomberg.

 

A late surge in support for the right-wing opposition candidate means Argentina’s presidential election will be decided by a first ever run-off between the two leading candidates, after a poor first round for the ruling Peronist party.

In a blow for outgoing president Cristina Kirchner, her candidate Daniel Scioli won just under 37 per cent of Sunday’s vote, falling far short of the 45 per cent required for outright victory. He even failed to break the 40 per cent mark which, when combined with a 10-point lead over his nearest rival, would also have ended the contest. Instead the governor of Buenos Aires province finished just 2½ points ahead of Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires city, who is attempting to become the first right-wing politician to be elected president in Argentina’s history. He took 34 per cent of the vote, doing far better than opinion polls predicted.

Institutional propriety

Argentina

Mr Scioli now faces the tricky task of broadening his appeal to independent voters in order to see off Mr Macri’s challenge in the second round, but without alienating Kirchner loyalists whose votes helped secure his first-round victory. Many of Ms Kirchner’s closest colleagues treat her chosen candidate with little-disguised disdain, fearing he will abandon her unorthodox economic policies.

The president and Mr Scioli invested heavily in efforts to win the election on the first round, as opinion polls show that, despite Ms Kirchner’s high personal approval rating, a majority of Argentines seek a new political direction for the country.

This desire for change failed to coalesce around one single opposition candidate ahead of Sunday’s vote, but Mr Macri will be hoping to capitalise on it now the race becomes a head- to-head contest.

Yesterday he made an early bid for support from Sergio Massa, the candidate who came third on Sunday with just over 21 per cent of the vote.

Like Mr Scioli, the young mayor of the town of Tigre is a Peronist who served in the Kirchner administration. But he has since broken with the government and harshly criticised the corruption of the ruling circle and warned that electing Mr Scioli would represent “a guarantee of impunity” for the wrongdoing that took place during the Kirchners’ 12 years in power.

Mr Macri said he was open to talking with Mr Massa about “maximising the coincidences” between their two platforms. But it is not clear whether an eventual endorsement from Mr Massa would be enough to get his Peronist supporters to vote against the party’s remaining candidate in the next round.

In total, three Peronist candidates took almost 59 per cent of the first round poll. In contrast the only left-wing candidate, Nicolás del Caño, took just 3.27 per cent, showing the ongoing difficulty left-wing parties have in breaking the grip Peronism – a movement rooted in fascism – has on the political loyalties of Argentina’s poor.

Major blow

The defeated Peronist candidate Aníbal Fernández, a close associate of Ms Kirchner, blamed the media for his defeat. During the campaign he was the subject of a report by one of Argentina’s most respected journalists linking him to the country’s illegal drugs trade.

Ms Kirchner also saw her Victory Front faction within Peronism lose its majority in the lower house of congress, where half the seats were up for election. Her son Máximo was elected a congressman for the family’s home province of Santa Cruz, but saw the party list he headed beaten into second place. His aunt Alicia was elected the Patagonian province’s new governor. The Victory Front did manage to hold on to its majority in the senate.