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Argentina's First Lady To Be President

Supporters of Argentina's first lady are celebrating her overwhelming victory in Sunday's presidential election. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Buenos Aires, where Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will receive the presidential sash from her husband, President Nestor Kirchner, in December.

For the first time in its history, Argentina has a woman president-elect. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner received about twice as many votes as each of her nearest rivals, former Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna and socialist lawmaker Elisa Carrio, easily avoiding a second round contest.

Fernandez is the wife of outgoing President Nestor Kirchner. She is also a senator. In a televised address, she appealed for national unity.

She said that victory has been secured by perhaps the widest margin of any presidential candidate since the restoration of democratic rule [in 1983]. She said, rather than seeking privilege, she and her supporters feel great responsibility and obligation toward their fellow-Argentines. She added that a country cannot be created by good governance alone. She called for the construction of a new society and the creation a new image for the Argentine people.

Argentines also elected legislators and provincial governors in Sunday's democratic exercise.

Many polling stations opened late, and ballot shortages hampered voting in some locations. Some opposition candidates suggested the problems and irregularities stemmed from a plot by the government of President Kirchner to guarantee a Fernandez victory.

Others, like former Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna, conceded defeat and acknowledged that the first lady had won.

Lavagna said that those who voted for him and his political allies have their thanks. He said those who did not, have their respect.

President Kirchner opted to forgo running for a second term in office. He could run again in four years. Some political observers say Fernandez' victory could be the beginning of a political dynasty in Argentina, with husband and wife switching positions term after term, so long as voters allow them to do so.

During the campaign, Fernandez downplayed comparisons to a formidable female figure from Argentina's past, Eva Peron (wife of two-time President Juan Peron), as well as former U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton. She has promised to build on her husband's solid economic record and to ensure that all Argentines benefit from the gains.

The president-elect has shown a desire to travel and engage with foreign leaders. She says she will work to attract greater foreign investment to Argentina.