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Argentina's President Macri Defeated As Voters Cast Verdict On Ailing Economy

Oct 28, 2019
Originally published on October 30, 2019 12:33 pm

Updated at 12:30 p.m.

Argentina's center-left swept to victory in general elections on Sunday, ousting conservative President Mauricio Macri, as voters thumped the incumbent for failing to deliver on a promise to create more jobs and raise the country's standard of living.

President-elect Alberto Fernández owes his victory in large part to former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who masterminded a comeback for herself but chose to run for vice president rather than the top job. The two are no relation.

Many assume that the flamboyant and savvy Kirchner will be the real power behind the president, although the candidates themselves have tried to dispel that notion.

The candidates beat Macri, a wealthy businessman and former mayor of Buenos Aires, in a decisive first round. With most of the votes counted, they were polling 47% to Macri's 41%.

Macri, who was running for reelection, is greeted by his wife, Juliana Awada (left) and the governor of Buenos Aires province, María Eugenia Vidal, after conceding the election before supporters in Buenos Aires.
Gustavo Garello / AP

Car horns blared and crowds of supporters appeared outside the victors' campaign headquarters Sunday as the results became clear.

"Today, Alberto is the president of all Argentines," Kirchner, who governed Argentina from 2007 to 2015, told those gathered to cheer the victory for the Frente para Todos, or Everybody's Front, coalition. "He will have a very hard task ahead of us that will require the cooperation of all Argentines."

"The only thing that concerns us is that Argentines stop suffering once and for all," the president-elect told the crowd. "We're back and we're going to be better!"

Supporter Juan José de Antonio, 46, told The Associated Press that he and others "were waiting for this change for a long time."

"We're tired of everything that has been happening," he said. "Some of us live a different reality from those suffering hunger, but when you have a friend who lost a job, a neighbor who can't make ends meet, it hits you."

Macri, who was elected in 2015, had promised "zero poverty" and a resurgent economy. Instead, he leaves office with ballooning inflation, a plunging peso, a poverty rate that has risen from 29% to 35% and an outstanding $57 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. His austerity policies further antagonized voters.

Kirchner, the first woman to be elected Argentina's president, is a huge figure in Latin American leftist politics. She served two terms as president, succeeding her husband, Néstor Kirchner — who left office in 2007 and died during his wife's first term. She now returns to power despite a slew of corruption allegations and political scandals.

President-elect Fernández is a lawyer who previously served as the chief of the Cabinet of ministers, a position similar to prime minister, under former President Néstor Kirchner and his wife. Fernández is considered a moderate Peronist — the populist, corporatist ideology that has largely dominated the country's politics since the movement's inception at the end of World War II. It takes its name from Argentina's former President Juan Domingo Perón and his second wife, Eva Perón.

Fernández assumes office on Dec. 10. He has promised to improve wages and benefits and to pay back the IMF loan taken out by his predecessor.

Even so, memories of his running mate's interventionist policies could rattle financial markets and further depreciate the peso. Among other things, that would make the IMF loan even harder to repay.

Correction: 10/27/19

A previous version of this story incorrectly said that former Argentine leader Néstor Kirchner died in office. He died in 2010, during his wife's first term as president.

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