Argentina election: Macri out as Cristina Fernández de Kirchner returns to office as VP
In a dramatic comeback, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, one of Argentina’s most popular presidents during her two terms in 2007-2015, has been voted back into office as vice president.
A large crowd of supporters burst into a roar outside the Frente de Todos (Everybody’s Front) party bunker in the Chacarita neighbourhood of the capital city of Buenos Aires at 9pm when preliminary official results gave the victory to the centre left presidential candidate Alberto Fernández and his running mate Fernández de Kirchner.
Incumbent Mauricio Macri conceded defeat on Sunday night, telling supporters at his headquarters that he had called Fernández to congratulate him and invited him for a breakfast chat on Monday at the Pink Presidential Palace.
“We need an orderly transition that will bring tranquility to all Argentinians, because the most important thing is the wellbeing of all Argentinians,” Macri said.
With more than 90% of ballots counted, Fernández, who is no relation of Fernández de Kirchner, had 47.79% of the vote, compared to Macri’s 40.71%.
The victory puts an end to the pro-business economic policies of Macri’s administration, who promised “zero poverty” during his electoral campaign but exits office with a plunging peso, an inflation rate that rocketed to an annual 56% and the number of people living beneath the breadline having risen from 29% to 35%.
President-elect Fernández, who assumes office on 10 December, is a moderate Peronist who has pledged to respect the $57bn IMF loan taken out by Macri last year to try and salvage Argentina’s creaking economy while promising to improve wages and benefits for workers and pensioners.
His victory was widely expected and car horns started sounding non-stop in Buenos Aires after polling booths closed at 6pm on Sunday celebrating his victory.
In one quiet neighbourhood, a group of bicycle delivery workers– one of the few job opportunities available for young people during Macri’s administration – rode through the streets tinkling their bells ecstatically celebrating the end of hisgovernment.
Argentina’s elections, traditionally held the last Sunday of October, coincided this year with the ninth anniversary of the death from a sudden heart attack of Néstor Kirchner, the husband and predecessor in office of Fernández de Kirchner. During his 2003-2007 administration Kirchner led Argentina’s recovery from its economic collapse and monumental foreign debt default in 2001-2002.
Cristina Fernández served as president from 2007 to 2015. By the time she left office she was entangled in a string of court cases involving accusations of bribery, money laundering, corruption and allegations that she had helped cover up Iran’s involvement in a terrorist bombing that prosecutor was investigating. Some of the corruption cases are ongoing. She denies any wrongdoing.
The memory of the period of sustained economic growth in the 2000s, during which time Fernández was cabinet chief, played an important part in the election campaign.
Reflecting his confidence in an easy win, Fernández, an amateur musician who enjoys hanging out with rock stars, spent a relaxed Saturday afternoon playing guitar and singing 1960s and 70s Argentine rock songs with Gustavo Santaolalla, the Argentine musician who won two consecutive Academy Awards for Brokeback Mountain and Babel in 2005-2006. A short video of the impromptu jam uploaded by Fernández’s spokesman Juan Pablo Biondi soon reached over 170 thousand views on Twitter.
On Saturday Fernández de Kirchner visited her husband’s mausoleum in the Patagonian city of Río Gallegos and Sunday midday she was greeted by a large adoring crowd at the polling booth. “This is such an important day for democracy,” Fernández de Kirchner said to journalists after voting.