The polls leading up to Argentina's presidential election Sunday got it all wrong. Numerous surveys indicated ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's chosen successor, would win enough votes for an outright victory.
Instead, 56-year-old Mauricio Macri, the center-right mayor of Buenos Aires and former boss of the popular football club, Boca Juniors, won 35.2 percent of the vote to Scioli's 35.9 percent, with 86 percent of the polling stations reporting, virtually insuring the country's first-ever run-off election on November 22.
"What happened today changes the politics of this country," Macri told his supporters late Sunday. Macri wants to lift capital controls and trade restrictions to win investor confidence and bring hard currency into the dollar-starved economy.
Scioli has vowed to uphold the core elements of "kirchnerism," a populist creed built around trade protectionism, social welfare and defense of the working classes. The 58-year-old Buenos Aires provincial governor and powerboating fanatic who lost his right arm in a 1989 racing accident, also promised a change in style to attract more investment and increase productivity, and has assembled an economic team of free-market advocates. He talked of a more gradual approach to monetary reform, while maintaining a generous social welfare safety net.
Under Argentine electoral law, in order to win outright in the first round a candidate must claim more than 45 percent of the vote, or at least 40 percent with a margin of 10 points over the runner-up.