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29/10/2013 | South America - Argentina: Argentina President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner suffers election blow in Buenos Aires

Jonathan Gilbert

Early results from midterm elections in Argentina sees huge support for opposition parties with President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner's Front for Victory Party losing Buenos Aires poll by wide margin.


Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, the Argentine president, suffered a crippling electoral defeat in the country's key province on Sunday, marking the beginning of a shift away from a decade of abrasive family rule.
Argentines voted in midterm elections that gave impetus to opposition parties, most crucially in Buenos Aires province, home to more than 15 million of the nation's 40 million people.

With two thirds of the votes counted, Sergio Massa, a rising political force who headed the list of candidates for the Renovation Front, was drawing in on a heavy victory. He had 43 per cent of the vote, 12 points ahead of Martín Insaurralde, who led the ticket for Mrs Kirchner's party, the Front for Victory.

Mr Massa, 41, will now lead a small block of 17 politicians in the lower house of congress. He is also expected to start gathering support for a presidential bid in 2015, slowly splintering Mrs Kirchner's Peronist support base.

The constitution bars Mrs Kirchner, who is recovering after surgery this month to drain a blood clot near her brain, from running for a third consecutive term.

She succeeded her late husband, Néstor Kirchner, in 2007 and has overseen an expansion of the welfare state, liberal social reforms and a string of nationalisations.

But she has no clear successor. There is also widespread discontent with her administration and, amid accusations of authoritarianism, a feeling that it is time for change. "This is the end of a cycle," said Sergio Berensztein, a pollster and political commentator. "It's 'phase-out' for Kirchner rule."

Mr Massa's campaign centred on tackling both high inflation, which economists estimate at 25 per cent, and violent street crime that is perceived to have risen sharply in recent years. "The government has not fulfilled its promises," said Carlos Domínguez, 33, an electrician who was voting in Tigre, the town where Mr Massa is mayor. "Massa is the best option for the future."

The rise of Mr Massa represents a "jump towards moderation," Mr Berensztein said, after 10 years of government that have polarised Argentines. Mr Massa was Mrs Kirchner's chief of cabinet for a short spell in 2008 and 2009, but he broke away from her Peronist party in June to launch the Renovation Front.

Mr Massa describes the front as having "a Peronist heart, but a modernist brain." Its proposals are widely viewed as business-friendly and a move to the centre.

The Front for Victory lost 12 of 23 provinces, including major urban centres, as well as the city of Buenos Aires. But it remained the most popular party nationally with 32 per cent of the vote and Mrs Kirchner has maintained a slim majority in both houses.

The momentum, however, now lies with Mr Massa. "The people have spoken," he told cheering supporters on Sunday night before taking aim at Mrs Kirchner.

"If we leave arrogance behind, progress is possible," he said.

Telegraph (Reino Unido)


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