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Macri battered in primary polls

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Mauricio Macri
Argentine President Mauricio Macri heads the rotating presidency of the Mercosur bloc founded in the early 1990s by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Xinhua

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) – President Mauricio Macri suffered a crushing defeat as Argentines voted in primary elections on Sunday ahead of October’s general election.

Given that all of the recession-hit South American country’s major parties have already chosen their presidential candidates, the primaries effectively served as a nationwide pre-election opinion poll.

Center-left nominee Alberto Fernandez led by around 15 points after partial results were revealed as center-right, pro-business Macri admitted it had been “a bad election.”

The first round of the presidential election will be held on October 27, with a run-off – if needed – set for November 24.

With 87 percent of polling station results counted, Fernandez had polled 47.5 percent with Macri on a little more than 32 percent and centrist former finance minister Roberto Lavagna a distant third on just 8.3 percent.

“For those who didn’t vote for me, I promise to work hard so they understand me,” said Fernandez to thousands of cheering supporters in Buenos Aires.

“We’re going to begin a new stage. We always fix the problems that others create.”

Macri had been hoping to earn a second mandate, but his chances appear all but over.

If Fernandez was to register the same result in October, he would be president as Argentina’s electoral law requires a candidate to gain 45 percent for outright victory, or 40 percent and a lead of at least 10 points over the nearest challenger.

Political analyst Raul Aragon had said before the vote that “it would be very difficult to claw back a difference of five points due to polarization: there’s no scope to claim votes.”

“We’ve had a bad election and that forces us to redouble our efforts from tomorrow,” said Macri, whose popularity has plunged since last year’s currency crisis and the much-criticized $56 billion bail-out loan he secured from the International Monetary Fund.

“It hurts that we haven’t had the support we’d hoped for,” he added.

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