Polls open in Argentina run-off to end Kirchner era

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Polling stations opened in Argentina Sunday in a run-off election to select the country’s next president, marking the end of the Kirchner era.

Whoever the winner, Argentina will have a new leader after 12 years of rule by the late president Nestor Kirchner (2003-07) and his wife, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (2007-15).

Opinon polls show Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, 56, of the centre-right coalition Cambiemos (Let’s Change), remains the front-runner. He came in second with a surprising performance in the first round of voting October 25.

Ruling-party candidate Daniel Scioli, 58, of the centre-left Peronist Front For Victory (FPV), had long been considered the favourite.

Going into the first round opinion polls showed Scioli leading Macri by about 10 percentage points, which meant he could possibly win the presidency in just one round. Macri’s goal was to force a second round.

By election day Macri had closed the gap to less than three percentage points and was gaining momentum.

Polls ahead of the runoff indicate that Macri is likely to beat Scioli, Nestor Kirchner’s former vice president and current governor of the powerful Buenos Aires province, by between four and eight percentage points.

However, the first round showed that such polls can be off the mark.

Polling stations will close at 2100 GMT. Final results could take many hours, especially if the 32 million registered voters make it a close election.

Fernandez de Kirchner, whom Argentinian election law prohibits from standing for a third consecutive term, is backing Scioli.

Argentina’s next president, who will take office on December 10, will have to grapple with inflation, shrinking central bank reserves, as well as foreign exchange controls that have led to a thriving black market for dollars.

The new president will also need to address bond holders who have refused to settle with Argentina’s government, which defaulted on 95 billion dollars of debt in 2001.

While more than 92 per cent of the bond holders have accepted partial settlements or discounts, the remainder have sued Argentina in US courts for full reimbursement. The dispute is keeping Argentina out of most international credit markets.

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