Argentina vote heralds political, economic shake-up

Argentina vote heralds political, economic shake-up

BUENOS AIRES - Agence France-Presse
Argentina vote heralds political, economic shake-up

AFP photo

Argentines decide on Nov. 22 whether to end years of leftist government in a run-off vote that could see the pro-business opposition seize command of Latin America’s third-biggest economy.

Polls show that the mayor of Buenos Aires, former football executive Mauricio Macri, could force a sharp realignment by beating his left-wing rival Daniel Scioli, an ex-powerboating champion.

If Macri breaks the grip of Peronism, the broad movement that has dominated Argentine politics for decades, he could liberalize the economy and lift the current limits on buying of U.S. dollars.

Observers have complained that the two candidates lack charisma, but the stakes of their contest are potentially dramatic.

The tone sharpened as campaigning wound up on Nov. 19 with Scioli branding Macri a “stuck-up” elitist.

“I want to save you from savage capitalism,” Scioli told supporters at a rally in the seaside town of Mar del Plata. “Macri wants to leave you at the mercy of the markets.”  

Macri in turn branded Scioli a liar.

“It’s very bad what he is doing, based on lies. He has deceived everyone,” said Macri, after attending an indigenous earth ritual in Jujuy, a poor northwestern province.

“The idea that only a Peronist can govern Argentina is just a myth.”

The increasingly tense campaign has been fought on shifting political ground in the vast South American nation of 42 million people.

If he wins, Macri will be the first leader to be elected who is neither a Peronist nor from the radical liberal movement.

Macri’s Republican Proposal party, known as PRO, “draws mostly non-Peronists, but it is not virulently anti-Peronist. There are even Peronists within PRO,” said Sergio Morresi, a political scientist at state research institute CONICET.

Macri could become Argentina’s most economically liberal leader since the 1990s.