Argentina's Kirchner wins key midterm elections as new liders emerge

President's wife scored an outstanding triumph in the Buenos Aires Province

Argentine President Nestor Kirchner has been stenghtened by a clear victory on Sunday midterm elections as his two-year-old government picked up new support in Congress. His wife, Cristina Fernandez, gave Kirchner an outstanding victory in the key Buenos Aires Province and a complicated system of alliances with regional strongmen secured him a broader presence in the two houses of the National Congress.Nestor Kirchner and his wife Cristina Fernandez

Crisitina Fernandez obtained 46% of the votes to become a senator, followed by the wife of the former President and former Kirchner's ally, Eduardo Duhalde, with 19% of the preferences. The third place came for the center-left Affirmation for a Republic of Equals Party (ARI, by its initials in Spanish), which obtained about 9% of the votes.

Kirchner's candidates won in 17 of the 24 electoral districts of the country, but in most of them, the President backed previously constitued regional leaderships. Other stunning victories than the one in Buenos Aires came from Cordoba - the fourth main district - and Tucuman – the fifth.

However, despite Kirchner's popularity, his candidates lost in three of the six main districts of the country. Socialists won by a ten percent margin in the key Santa Fe Province, which holds country's second largest city, Rosario. The centrist UCR won in Mendoza, in the west of the country, as a center-right coalition led by the multimillonaire businessman Mauricio Macri defeated Kirchner's Foreign Ministry Rafael Bielsa in the race for a seat in the lower chamber of the Capital, Buenos Aires.

Macri got up to 33% of the votes followed by Elisa Carrio, the ARI leader, with 22% and Bielsa, 20%. The ARI leader was at the top of the opinion polls until one week before the elections, when the Government propagandized a fake acussation against her fellow candidate for the municipal elections, the former city Mayor Enrique Olivera.

As for the ARI, the four-year old center-left party consolidated as the main progressive force in the country, with 16 members in the future lower chamber coming mainly from the city of Buenos Aires, the Buenos Aires Province, Tierra del Fuego (in the far south) and Entre Rios. It has also obtained good levels of representation in provinces as La Pampa, Mendoza, Santa Fe, Chaco and the Patagonia region.

The Socialist Party is now the main political force in the food-rich Province of Santa Fe, with Hermes Binner as an emerging national leader.

In the aftermath, it became clear that Kirchner, a once obscure governor from remote Patagonia who won the presidency with just 22 percent of the vote in 2003, has turned into powerful leader. His wife, Cristina Fernandez is now the strongwoman in the Buenos Aires Province and a new leader in the Senate.

Ahead of the 2007 presidential race, both look invincible, but new leaders could shed some shadow to their aspirations. Mr. Macri, in the right side of the screen, and Mrs. Carrio and Mr. Binner in the left one, will do their best to frustrate the most powerful marriage of Latin America.

Photo: Argentine President Nestor Kirchner and his wife Cristina Fernandez

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Author`s name Olga Savka