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Argentines Vote in National Elections Sunday


Argentines are preparing to go to the polls Sunday to elect a new president, along with legislators and provincial governors. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Buenos Aires, few Argentines are expressing genuine excitement over the elections, despite the fact that the country appears poised to elect its first-ever female leader.

More than 20 million Argentines are expected to cast ballots in a country where voting is compulsory for all citizens aged 18 to 70. Leading the presidential field is Argentina's current first lady and senator, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, wife of outgoing President Nestor Kirchner.

Pre-election polls have shown she is the clear favorite, backed by 40 to 45 percent of the electorate in a 13-candidate presidential field that spans Argentina's political spectrum. Other contenders include former socialist lawmaker Elisa Carrio and former economy minister Roberto Lavagna, neither of whom polled above 15 percent in pre-election surveys.

Buenos Aires lawyer Adriana Gomez says she will vote for Fernandez. She says, "Cristina seems to be consistent as a politician. She strikes me as intelligent. I would like for her to become president."

Others shudder at the thought of President Kirchner transferring the presidential sash to his wife. Architecture student Adrian Torres says he has nothing against having a woman president -- in principle. He says, "It would be historic, but what remains to be seen is if it would be beneficial. I would like to see a female president, but not this one [Cristina Fernandez]."

Sitting next to Adrian in a Buenos Aires park is his girlfriend, Gaby, who is also wary of the first lady coming to power.

She says, "Cristina was able to enter the race because she is the president's wife. There were no primary elections."

Fernandez hails from Argentina's historically-dominant Peronist Party, but is running as a center-left coalition candidate. During the campaign, she stressed the strong economic growth rates recorded during President Kirchner's term, and pledged to make sure the gains benefit all Argentines.

As they prepare to cast ballots, some Argentines say they remain unsure who they will end up voting for. Yet many believe that Cristina Fernandez will win. The widespread perception that a Fernandez victory is all but certain appears to have sapped the election of any suspense or excitement it might have had.

Buenos Aires hotel employee Maribel Lescano. She says, "I will vote. I will fulfill my civic responsibility. But I will not be voting for someone, rather against [someone else]. And that is not a good thing."

To secure a first-round victory and avoid a run-off, Cristina Fernandez would have to get 45 percent of the vote, or 40 percent with a 10 point lead over the second place contender.

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