Populist left-wing candidate Alberto Fernandez won a resounding victory in Argentina’s presidential election Sunday, ousting center-right incumbent Mauricio Macri.
Fernandez, a 60-year-old law professor, had 48 percent of the votes – easily crossing the threshold for outright victory – after 99 percent of the votes had been counted, with Macri trailing at 40.44 percent.
Macri’s downfall comes amid a lengthy recession and a debt crunch, raising market fears of a possible default on a $57 billion IMF loan.
Argentina’s poverty rate has risen to more than 35 percent, inflation for the year to September was at almost 38 percent, while the peso has depreciated 70 percent since January 2018.
The peso fell 5.86 percent in the week before the elections, and the week ended with the dollar at 65 pesos.
President-elect Fernandez has barely time to savor his emphatic triumph in Argentina’s elections before facing the challenge of trying to dampen likely volatile market reaction to his victory on Monday.
VIDEO: Hundreds of ecstatic Alberto Fernandez supporters wave flags and cheer at the Obelisk of Buenos Aires, as the Peronist candidate in #Argentina swept to a first-round triumph in the presidential election #ArgentinaDecide pic.twitter.com/oA5EL2Ry2Y
— AFP news agency (@AFP) October 28, 2019
Fernandez is scheduled to have an early breakfast meeting with Macri at the Casa Rosada palace to begin cooperating on damage limitation as Argentina swings from Macri’s market-friendly policies back to Peronist protectionism.
His win caps a remarkable political comeback for his running mate, ex-president Cristina Kirchner, who will be his vice-president despite facing a slew of trials over graft allegations stemming from her 2007-2015 presidency.
Thousands of ecstatic Fernandez supporters cheered and danced outside his Frente de Todos party headquarters in Buenos Aires even before the results were announced.
At Fernandez’s side, Kirchner called on Macri in the last days of his rule “to take all necessary measures to alleviate this dramatic situation.”
The election came amid high tensions in the region, with massive protests in neighboring Chile and Bolivia, as well as recent unrest over inequality in Ecuador.
Fernandez paid tribute to Evo Morales for his election victory in neighboring Bolivia to win a fourth term. He also wished ex-Brazil president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, who is jailed on highly controversial charges – a happy 74th birthday.
Turnout in Sunday’s general election was over 80 percent after a campaign dominated by the crippling economic crisis affecting Latin America’s second-biggest economy.
— Reuters (@Reuters) October 28, 2019
Macri had called for a massive turnout, which analysts saw as his main hope of closing a large opinion poll deficit on Fernandez and forcing a second round.
Fernandez has insisted his government would not default but rather seek to renegotiate the terms of the loan, and sought to reassure voters that their bank deposits would be safe under his administration.
Since Fernandez’s crushing victory in August primaries, Argentine savers have withdrawn around $12 billion from their accounts.
Macri pledged “a healthy and constructive opposition.”
Fernandez earlier vowed to end the polarization which has long divided Argentine politics between his Peronist movement and supporters of the business-friendly incumbent.
“The days of ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ are over,” the mustachioed leftist leader said after voting. “We are in an enormous crisis. Everyone has to take responsibility for what’s ahead.”
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