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.