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Argentines Voting in National Elections


Argentines are voting for a new president, along with legislators and provincial governors. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Buenos Aires, the country's first lady is heavily favored to succeed her husband, President Nestor Kirchner, but what remains to be seen is whether she will win the vote outright, or have to compete in a second round of balloting.

Millions of Argentines lined up to cast ballots, with voting delayed at many locations where polling stations failed to open on time. Buenos Aires resident Matilda Gonzales stood patiently in a line that snaked around a block near the city's center.

She says, "I am voting with great enthusiasm. That is why I am here. I am excited to vote. It is my right to do so," said Gonzales.

First Lady and Senator Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner maintained a commanding lead in pre-election presidential surveys. A member of Argentina's historically-dominant Peronist party, Fernandez ran as a center-left coalition candidate. Twelve other presidential contenders include former socialist lawmaker Elisa Carrio and former Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna. If victorious, Fernandez would become the country's first-ever elected female leader.

Matilda Gonzalez declined to say who she planned to vote for, but said the next president - man or woman - will have a lot of work to do.

She says, "There are many important issues confronting the country. The lack of security above all, and also inflation. Inflation is fatal [a huge problem] for us."

The campaign season featured no public debates among the presidential contenders, and opinion polls showed few of the country's 27 million eligible voters fully satisfied with the slate of candidates.

Truck driver Marco Santarelli said he only recently made up his mind as to which candidate would get his vote.

He says, "I decided yesterday, and I am still not fully convinced. I think some people do not know who to vote for, and will make up their minds in the voting booth. During the campaign, none of the candidates had anything to say, made any proposals or put forth a platform of what they intend to do. So we are voting blind. I am voting because I have to. If it were voluntary, I would not be here."

To win outright, Cristina Fernandez would need to capture 45 percent of the vote, or 40 percent with a 10 point lead over the second-place finisher.

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