Polling stations in Argentina opened at 8:00 AM this Sunday for the general elections that will decide the president and vice president, along with other national and provincial positions.
Approximately 35.4 million Argentines are called upon to choose a president and vice president, and renew 130 of the 257 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 24 of the 72 in the Senate. They will also appoint 43 Argentine representatives to the Mercosur Parliament (the legislative body of the block composed of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay).
Along with this, there will be general elections for positions in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Catamarca, Entre Rios, and the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, which decided not to separate their elections from the national ones, unlike the rest of the districts.
According to information provided by the Ministry of Defense, over 86,000 toops from the General Electoral Command, under the jurisdiction of the Armed Forces, were deployed for the logistics and protection of ballot boxes and voting materials distributed in 17,400 schools and venues throughout the country. The polls will remain open until six in the evening.
Voting is mandatory for citizens between 18 and 70 years old, and voluntary for those aged 16 to 18 or over 70, as well as for Argentine citizens residing abroad, who, due to the time difference, have already begun to cast their votes at some of the 137 diplomatic and consular representations in 86 countries.
Milei Leads as Favorite
Argentina must choose its next leader, who will govern the country from December 10 for the 2023-2027 term, replacing the Peronist Alberto Fernandez, who chose not to seek reelection.
The main candidates vying for the position are the leader of La Libertad Avanza (far-right), Javier Milei, the favorite, who was the most voted candidate in the primaries in August; the current Minister of Economy, Sergio Massa, who represents the ruling coalition (Peronism); and the candidate from Together for Change (center-right), Patricia Bullrich.
Additionally, there are other contenders, such as the incumbent Governor of Cordoba, Juan Schiaretti, who represents We Do it for Our Country (dissident Peronism), and the candidate from the Left and Workers’ Front, Myriam Bregman.
If no candidate obtains 45% of the votes or at least 40% with a lead of 10 percentage points over the next most voted candidate, a runoff will be held on November 19th.
This runoff will not apply to the province of Buenos Aires, where the governor will be determined on this Sunday. The candidates include the Peronist Axel Kicillof, the current Chief of Government and a close associate of Vice President Cristina Fernández; the center-right Nestor Grindetti, and the ultra-liberal Carolina Píparo.
In the same year that Argentina celebrates four decades of democracy after the last military dictatorship (1976-1983), the country faces these elections amid a serious socio-economic context, with a year-on-year inflation rate reaching 138.3% in September, a poverty rate of 40.1% in the population, a shortage of reserves, and an exchange rate gap exceeding 200%.
Former President Macri Foresees a Second Round
Former Argentine President Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) predicted on Sunday that the country will experience a runoff after today’s vote, although he did not mention the political forces he thinks would compete in it.
When explicitly asked about possible results by the waiting press as he left the center where he cast his vote, amid the campaigning ban in effect since last Friday, the leader of the opposition coalition Together for Change (center-right) indicated that he sees “a runoff scenario.”
The former president, who announced in March that he would not run for election, expressed his wish that citizens would vote today “to achieve the future we deserve.”
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez encouraged citizens “to vote” and emphasized, after casting his ballot this Sunday in Buenos Aires, that “the people decide.”
“We have done everything necessary for this process to proceed peacefully. The rest is democracy; it is the people who decide,” said the head of state after casting his vote.
Fernandez, who chose not to seek reelection, avoided some questions from the press regarding self-criticism of his administration, due to the electoral silence, and reiterated his request to citizens to go out and vote “and express themselves.”
In response to questions from the media gathered at the door of the Catholic University in Puerto Madero, in the southern part of the Argentine capital, about what he will do on December 10, once he leaves the presidency, Fernandez replied that he will live “as a citizen” and added that it “doesn’t matter” if he continues in politics or not.