Argentina's primaries on Sunday to narrow presidential race
Scioli leads in polls for the ruling party while right-wing Marci could win if general election goes to second round

Argentines will vote Sunday in a presidential primary, with two candidates vying to gain momentum in the run-up to the October general election.

The primaries are intended to weed out political parties that get less than 1.5 percent of the votes, and pare down the remaining parties to the top pick in a race that could bring the first change in government since 2003.

The frontrunners are the left-of-center ruling party’s candidate, Buenos Aires Gov. Daniel Scioli, and right-wing businessman Mauricio Macri, who has been the mayor of Buenos Aires City for the past eight years.

"It is Scioli or Macri,” Carlos Germano, a political analyst at Carlos Germano y Asociados, told Anodolu Agency. "Both are well positioned for a good election.”

He estimates that Scioli, a one-armed former speedboat racer, will take between 35 percent and 38 percent of the vote Sunday, while Macri will trail with 29 - 33 percent.

The narrower the difference, the more competitive the race will be for the Oct. 25 general election, Germano said.

Going into the primaries, Germano said it looks probable that the general election will go to ballotage – essentially a run-off.

If that happens, it is more likely that Marci, a former president of the hugely popular soccer club Boca Juniors, will win in the second round, Germano said.

Regardless of who wins, the election will bring an end to 12-year rule of the Kirchners.

Nestor Kirchner won the presidency in 2003, helping to lead the economy out of a 2001-02 crisis, albeit largely thanks to a surge in global prices and demand for soybeans, the country’s biggest export.

Kirchner’s wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, went on to easily win the 2007 and 2011 elections, building on popular policies to help the poor with child welfare and subsidies. She also continued to bring to trial human rights abusers from a 1976-83 military dictatorship, renationalized the state airline, oil company and pension system, and legalized same-sex marriages.

Even so, Fernandez de Kirchner failed to sustain economic growth, which slowed in 2011 and has been contracting since 2014. Inflation is running at 30 percent annual, investment is low and unions are stepping up pressure for higher wages.

Germano said that while Scioli has gained Fernandez de Kirchner’s endorsement, he will likely try to distance himself from her after the primaries in order to cozy up to the middle class, which for the most part has grown tired with the ruling party and wants change.

On the other hand, Macri will have to build support with the poor if he is to become president.

His stronghold is the middle and upper classes of the cities, but swing votes in any election are in the Conurbano – a series of poorer suburbs of Buenos Aires that are home to 23 percent of the electorate.

"Macri will have to work hard in the Conurbano to improve his chances,” Germano said.

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Last Modified: 2015-08-08 07:52:06
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