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Argentina’s presidential election: Who are the candidates and what is at stake?


FILE PHOTO: A combination picture shows Argentina’s presidential candidates Sergio Massa (L) of Union por la Patria party as he addresses the audience during a workers’ meeting on September 29, 2023, Patricia Bullrich (C) of Juntos por el Cambio party as

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -Argentina will hold a presidential election on Oct. 22, with a fiery libertarian economist, an economy minister and a center-right former security minister vying in a tight race to reach the presidential palace.

One of them will replace President Alberto Fernandez, who is not seeking re-election.

The election comes as Argentine voters have been hard-hit by 124% yearly inflation that has pummeled their purchasing power. Two in five Argentines live in poverty.

WHEN AND WHERE IS THE ELECTION?

Voting centers for the Oct. 22 election open at 8 a.m. local time (1100 GMT) and close at 6 p.m. The preliminary results do not have an established publication time and law prohibits the dissemination of forecasts until 9 p.m. local time.

Voting is mandatory for citizens between 18 and 70 years old and optional for 16- and 17-year-olds and people over 70. About 35.4 million people are registered to vote, including Argentines who live abroad.

To win in the first round, a candidate has to obtain more than 45% of votes or more than 40% with a more than 10-point lead over the second-place candidate. If no candidate reaches this threshold, the top two will continue to a runoff on Sunday, Nov. 19.

WHAT POSITIONS WILL ARGENTINES VOTE FOR?

Argentines will vote for the country’s new president and vice president, who will take office on Dec. 10 and govern for four years, until the end of 2027.

Voters will also choose 130 lower house representatives from all of Argentina’s 23 provinces and one autonomous city, and 24 national senators representing eight provinces. The Argentine Congress is made up of a Lower House of 257 representatives and an Upper House of 72 representatives.

WHO ARE THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES?

The three main candidates are Javier Milei, a 52-year-old economist from the libertarian party La Libertad Avanza (LLA); Sergio Massa, the 51-year-old economy minister representing the ruling Union por la Patria (UP) coalition; and Patricia Bullrich, a 67-year-old former security minister from the center-right Juntos por el Cambio(JxC) coalition.

Dissident Peronist Juan Schiaretti from Hacemos por Nuestro País and Myriam Bregman from the leftist Frente de Izquierda coalition are also on the ballot, but polls report their voter support at less than 6% each.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Argentina’s tight election races come at a time of uncertainty for the South American country facing its worst economic crisis in decades.

An incoming government will have to resuscitate an economy facing triple-digit inflation, negative net foreign exchange reserves, and a currency that has lost 44% of its value since the August primaries. Meanwhile, it will have to stay on track with goals laid out by the International Monetary Fund as conditions of a $44 billion loan.

Milei, who obtained the most votes in the August primaries, was a theatrical economics columnist on television until winning a congressional seat two years ago. He has promised unprecedented political and economic restructuring, which includes dollarizing the economy, eliminating the central bank and drastically reducing the state’s role.

The candidacy of Massa, a moderate Peronist, illustrates a strong realignment within the dominating political force since the middle of the last century. After almost two decades as the leading Peronist figure, powerful center-left Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has taken a backseat in these elections after facing multiple corruption charges in recent years.

PROJECTIONS

Far-right libertarian Javier Milei is leading the polls ahead of Argentina’s Oct. 22 presidential vote, but it remains a tight race between the top three candidates, three surveys showed.

All three surveys had Economy Minister Sergio Massa in second place and conservative opposition candidate Patricia Bullrich in third.

However, Argentina’s pollsters have failed to reliably predict the results of the 2019 presidential elections and recent primaries, when the majority of analysts placed Milei in third place.

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