Argentina has re-elected Cristina Kirchner as president in a landslide result that gave her the widest victory margin in Argentina’s history after her government spread the wealth of a booming economy.
Kirchner had 53% of the vote after 58% of polling stations reported. Her nearest challenger got 17%. The interior minister, Florencio Randazzo, predicted the president’s share would rise as polls came in from her party’s stronghold of densely populated Buenos Aires province.
“Count on me to continue pursuing the project,” Kirchner said in her victory speech. “All I want is to keep collaborating … to keep Argentina growing. I want to keep changing history.”
Kirchner is Latin America’s first woman to be re-elected as president but the victory was personally bittersweet – the first without her husband and predecessor, Néstor Kirchner, who died of a heart attack on 27 October 2010.
“This is a strange night for me,” she said, describing her mix of emotions. “This man who transformed Argentina led us all and gave everything he had and more … Without him, without his valour and courage, it would have been impossible to get to this point.”
Thousands of jubilant, flag-waving people crowded into the capital’s historic Plaza de Mayo to watch on a huge TV screen as she spoke from a downtown hotel.
Kirchner vowed to protect Argentina from outside threats or special interests. “This woman isn’t moved by any interest. The only thing that moves her is profound love for the country. Of that I’m responsible,” Kirchner said.
Later she appeared in the plaza as well, giving a rousing, second victory speech in which she called on Argentina’s youth to dedicate themselves to social projects.
Kirchner was on track to win a larger share of votes than any president since Argentina’s democracy was restored in 1983, when Raul Alfonsin was elected with 52%. Her margin over Hermes Binner and five other candidates was wider even than the 1973 victory margin of her strongman hero, Juan Domingo Peron.
Her political coalition also hoped to regain enough seats in Congress to form new alliances and regain the control it lost in 2009. At play were 130 seats in the lower house and 24 in the senate.
Kirchner suffered high negative ratings early in her presidency but soared in popularity as a widow by softening her usually combative tone and proving her ability to command loyalty or respect from an unruly political elite.
Most voters polled beforehand said they wanted government stability to keep their financial situations improving in what has been one of Argentina’s longest spells of economic growth in history.
Kirchner, 58, chose her youthful economy minister, Amado Boudou, as her running mate. They championed Argentina’s approach to the global financial crisis: nationalise private pensions, use central bank reserves to increase government spending rather than impose austerity measures, and force investors in foreign debt to suffer before ordinary citizens.
Argentina’s world-record debt default in 2001 closed off most international lending but had kept the country booming ever since, with its economy expanding at twice the rate of Brazil’s, economist Mark Weisbrot said.
Opposition candidates blamed Kirchner for rising inflation and increasing crime, and accused her of politically manipulating economic data and trying to use government power to quell media criticism.
Former president Eduardo Duhalde, who fell from front-running rival to near-last in the polls, said in a dour closing speech that the country was “dancing on the Titanic”, failing to prepare for another global economic crisis.
But Weisbrot said Argentina was in far better shape than most countries in the region to face such problems.
Binner, 68, a doctor and leader of a socialist party, said: “We know how to read the numbers and we congratulate the lady president, but we also tell her that this force is Argentina’s second-leading political force.”
Ricardo Alfonsin, 59, a lawyer and congressional deputy with the traditional Radical Civic Union party and son of the former president, had 12%; Alberto Rodriguez Saa, 52, an attorney and governor of San Luis province whose brother Adolfo was president for a week, had 8%; Duhalde, who preceded Néstor Kirchner as president, had 6%; leftist former lawmaker Jorge Altamira, 69, and congresswoman Elisa Carrio 54, each had 2%.
Nearly 78% of nearly 29 million registered voters cast ballots in the country of 40 million.