Argentina Primaries Pit Macri Reforms Against Fernandez Comeback


Argentine voters will give President Mauricio Macri a good indication of the risks to his reform program in primaries Sunday as ex-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner returns from the political shadows to the mainstage.

Argentines are voting to select candidates to stand in legislative elections of Oct. 22. Candidates from all parties are on the same ballot in each voting district, making the primary an unofficial first round or a poll with a huge sample size. Polls opened at 8 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. with the first results expected by 9 p.m.

Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images

With no party or alliance capable of causing significant changes in congress’s makeup, the focus is on individual battles, especially the race for three senate seats representing Buenos Aires province, where Fernandez is pitted against Esteban Bullrich, Macri’s former education minister. A big lead for Fernandez would raise the specter of her running for president in 2019 and would be interpreted as a rejection by voters of Macri’s program of reforms, potentially sending bonds and the peso tumbling.

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A lead for Bullrich or even an advantage of less than 3 percentage points for Fernandez would be interpreted as a win for Macri, said Leonardo Chialva, a partner at Delphos Investment in Buenos Aires.

Macri’s party, Cambiemos, “are competing with unknown candidates” in a district which has often been hostile to them, Chialva said by email. A lead of 2 percentage points, “is a defeat for a figure such as her running against a ‘nobody’.”

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