ARGENTINE UPDATE – Oct 26, 2015


1. IN SURPRISE, OPPOSITION IN ARGENTINE ELECTION FORCES RUNOFF (The Washington Post)

2. ARGENTINES WEIGH CONTINUITY OR OVERHAUL IN ELECTION (The Washington Post)

3. ARGENTINA OPPOSITION CANDIDATE FORCES ELECTION RUN-OFF (Financial Times)

4. ARGENTINA’S ECONOMY A POISONED CHALICE FOR PRESIDENT’S SUCCESSOR (Financial Times)

5. RUNOFF APPEARS LIKELY IN RACE FOR ARGENTINA’S PRESIDENT (CNN)

6. ARGENTINE OPPOSITION CHALLENGER MACRI FORCES RUN-OFF IN TIGHT ELECTION (Reuters News)

7. ARGENTINES VOTE TO ELECT NEW PRESIDENT (Dow Jones Institutional News)

8. ARGENTINA HEADS FOR PRESIDENTIAL RUNOFF (Dow Jones Institutional News)

9. ARGENTINA’S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION SEEN HEADING TO NOVEMBER RUNOFF (Platts Commodity News)

10. CONTINUITY NOT CHANGE FOR ARGENTINA’S VOTERS ON ELECTION DAY (The Christian Science Monitor)

11. ARGENTINE CHIEF’S ALLY STRONG FAVORITE (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

12. ELECTION WILL END A PRESIDENT’S TERM, BUT NOT HER HOLD ON ARGENTINA (The New York Times)

13. ARGENTINE VOTE-BUYING PRACTICE UNDER NEW SCRUTINY AS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS NEAR (The New York Times)

14. ARGENTINES FAVOR OUTGOING PRESIDENT’S ALLY DESPITE NATIONAL WOES (Los Angeles Times.com)

15. KIRCHNER FAMILY’S HOLD ON ARGENTINA FRAYS EVEN AT ITS PATAGONIAN SOURCE (The Wall Street Journal Online)

16. NEXT ARGENTINE LEADER HAS NO EASY ECONOMIC OPTIONS (The Wall Street Journal)

17. RUNOFF LIKELY IN ARGENTINA PRESIDENTIAL RACE (Voice of America)

18. IN ARGENTINA, IT’S GOOD RIDDANCE TO KIRCHNERISM (Forbes)

19. ARGENTINA’S OSCAR ENTRY ‘THE CLAN’ SET FOR U.S. RELEASE (Variety)

1. IN SURPRISE, OPPOSITION IN ARGENTINE ELECTION FORCES RUNOFF (The Washington Post)
By Peter Prengaman
October 26, 2015

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The ruling party’s presidential candidate promised continuity with some changes. The leading opposition candidate promised changes with some continuity.

Argentine voters seemed to call that a draw in Sunday’s election, giving the two men a neck-and-neck finish and forcing a runoff in their bid to succeed President Cristina Fernandez, a polarizing leader who garnered both devotion and loathing as she spent heavily on the poor and blasted political opponents and even other nations like the United States.

With 80 percent of polling places reporting early Monday, opposition candidate Mauricio Macri and ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli each had 35 percent of the votes. Sergio Massa, a former Fernandez loyalist who broke away to form his own political movement, was third in the six-candidate field with 21 percent.

The unexpected tight finish means Macri and Scioli will square off in a Nov. 22 runoff. To win the first round, a candidate had needed 45 percent of the votes or 40 percent and a 10-point advantage over the nearest competitor.

Scioli, the governor of the Buenos Aires province, had been viewed as an easy front-runner thanks to the support of Fernandez, who won admirers for rewriting Argentina’s social contract but also drew sharp criticism for widespread allegations of corruption and numerous economic ills, like high inflation.

Numerous polls had predicted Scioli would win by more than 10 points, indicating the only question was whether he could gain enough votes to avoid a runoff.

The strong showing by Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires, underscored that many voters are ready for change after 12 years of Kirchnerismo, the political movement founded by Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor as president, Nestor Kirchner.

“What happened today changes the politics of this country,” Macri told supporters late Sunday.

Scioli, the governor of the Buenos Aires province and a former vice president, presented himself as the continuation of Fernandez’s policies but who would also fix anything broken.

“I invite undecided and independent (voters) to join me in this great celebration of Argentine development,” Scioli told a gathering of supporters late Sunday.

Macri campaign as the candidate to put Argentina’s economy in order, promising to resolve a long-running fight with U.S. creditors and lift unpopular currency restrictions.

But he also tailored his campaign to the millions who receive some form of government support. He promised to maintain popular programs for the poor and increase spending in some areas. He even inaugurated a statue of Juan Peron, a three-time former president who founded the ideological movement to which Fernandez adheres.

“Macri can inaugurate whatever he wants,” said Claudio Toledo, a Scioli voter. “I don’t trust Macri.”

While Macri’s moves raised eyebrows and drew sharp criticism from Scioli, they likely helped Macri capture undecided voters. But both candidates’ decision to straddle the center also led to many questions about what they would really do in office.

Many Argentines are worried about high government spending and inflation around 30 percent as well as being concerned about the legal fight with creditors in the U.S. that has kept the country out of international credit markets.

Still Argentines have a nightmarish reference point for a truly bad economy: the financial collapse of 2001-2002, when the country defaulted on $100 billion in debt and overnight millions of middle class people were impoverished. And Fernandez and her late husband are widely credited with lifting Argentina up from that crisis.

Fernandez sharply increased spending on social welfare programs, which range from work training to stipends for single mothers. Her government was the first in Latin America to legalize gay marriage, and it nationalized airline Aerolineas Argentinas and the YPF oil company while strengthening ties with Russia and China.

Scioli, a former boat racer who lost his right arm in an accident in 1989, bristled at suggestions that Fernandez would continue to dominate behind the scenes.

“What Scioli would do in office is a mystery,” said Maria Fernandez, who owns a real estate company. “Will he take orders from Cristina or do something else?”

“I don’t want to find out,” added Fernandez, who voted for Macri.

2. ARGENTINES WEIGH CONTINUITY OR OVERHAUL IN ELECTION (The Washington Post)
By Peter Prengaman
October 25, 2015

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — In one of the most important elections of a generation, Argentines on Sunday chose between a ruling party candidate who promised to continue with the loved and sometimes loathed policies of President Cristina Fernandez and an opposition leader who argued the South American nation needs an overhaul.

It was no surprise that the leading candidates defined themselves in terms of Fernandez, a polarizing leader who along with her late husband dominated national politics for 12 years and rewrote the country’s social contract.

Polls closed in the evening without any reports of disturbances, and election officials said the first official results would not be known until late Sunday.

During the chilly but clear day when bars were closed and there were not the usual weekend soccer games, millions filed into schools, churches and other businesses converted into polling places to cast their votes — sometimes undecided right up to the last moment.

“The truth is I don’t like any of the candidates,” said Anai Roy, a college student who said she would make a choice in the polling booth. “So I just have to decide who is the best of bad.”

The decisions of voters like Roy would be key, as Argentines have been deeply divided about the rule of Fernandez and about who might improve the economic problems and corruption plaguing the nation of 41 million people.

Inflation is around 30 percent, the economy is stagnant and a bitter court fight with a group of creditors in the U.S. has scared off investors and kept Argentina on the margins of international credit markets.

But Argentines have a unique, nightmarish reference point for a truly bad economy: the financial collapse of 2001-2002, when the country defaulted on $100 billion in debt and overnight millions of middle class people were impoverished.

“The economy is OK. It’s not great,” said Maria Victoria Murillo, an expert on Argentine politics at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. “But for Argentina, OK is pretty good.”

Daniel Scioli, the governor of the Buenos Aires province and a former vice president, was the chosen successor to Fernandez, who nears the end of her second term with approval ratings around 50 percent.

Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor as president, Nestor Kirchner, are widely credited with lifting the nation after the collapse. Fernandez sharply increased spending on social welfare programs, which range from work training to stipends for single mothers. Her government was the first in Latin America to legalize gay marriage, and it nationalized airline Aerolineas Argentinas and the YPF oil company while strengthening ties with Russia and China and often accusing the United States of meddling in the country’s affairs.

Scioli, a former boat racer who lost his right arm in an accident in 1989, presented himself as the continuation of Fernandez’s policies who would also fix anything broken. He bristled at suggestions that Fernandez would continue to dominate behind the scenes.

“What Scioli would do in office is a mystery,” said Maria Fernandez, who owns a real estate company. “Will he take orders from Cristina or do something else?”

“I don’t want to find out,” added Fernandez, who was voting for Mauricio Macri, the lead opposition candidate.

Macri, the Buenos Aires mayor, presented himself as the candidate to put Argentina’s economy in order, promising to make a deal with the U.S. creditors and lift unpopular currency restrictions.

But Macri also has tailored his campaign to the millions who receive some form of government support. He promised to maintain popular programs for the poor and increase spending in some areas. Macri even went so far as to inaugurate a statue of Juan Peron, a three-time former president who founded the ideological movement to which Fernandez adheres.

Ramiro Blanco said she was voting for Scioli in large part because Fernandez picked him.

“I want to preserve everything we have achieved in these years,” said Blanco, a clothing store manager. “Macri would be a return to the past” conservative economic policies that many Argentines believe led to the 2001 collapse.

To win outright, a candidate needed 45 percent of the votes, or 40 percent and at least a 10-point advantage over the nearest competitor.

3. ARGENTINA OPPOSITION CANDIDATE FORCES ELECTION RUN-OFF (Financial Times)
By Benedict Mander in Buenos Aires
October 26, 2015

Argentina’s presidential elections are set to continue to a run-off vote next month in a blow for the leftist government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner after a turnround in the fortunes of the opposition candidate, Mauricio Macri.

“What happened today changes the politics of this country,” Mr Macri, the centre-right mayor of Buenos Aires and former president of Boca Juniors football club told a crowd of euphoric supporters amid balloons and blaring music.

“It is today, it is here, it is now. Let’s go Argentina!” he bellowed, before breaking into a dance.

Mr Macri was almost neck-and-neck early on Monday morning with Daniel Scioli, Ms Fernández’s anointed successor, who billed himself as the continuity candidate. Mr Scioli was slightly ahead with 36 per cent of the vote while Mr Macri had 35 per cent, with 88 per cent of ballots counted.

Opinion polls had shown Mr Macri lagging behind Mr Scioli by about 10 percentage points — casting doubt on whether he would even be able to prevent the government-backed candidate from winning outright — analysts now say he has a good chance of removing the ruling Peronist party from power after 12 years.

Argentina’s unique electoral rules require the winner to receive more than 45 per cent of the vote to avoid a second round, or 40 per cent with a 10-point lead over the runner-up. With no candidate achieving these conditions, the vote will now go to a run-off on November 22.

The outcome will greatly depend on those who voted for Sergio Massa, a dissident Peronist, who came third with about 21 per cent. The former cabinet chief of Ms Fernández refrained from throwing his weight behind either candidate in a speech on Sunday night, although analysts expect the majority of his voters to back Mr Macri.

Although initial results were not published until after midnight, Mr Scioli appeared before supporters earlier in the evening to give a speech aimed at winning over undecided voters.

He played on concerns that Mr Macri would represent a return to the neoliberal policies that characterised Argentina in the 1990s, culminating in the 2001 economic crisis and what was then the biggest sovereign debt default in history.

“Changes have to go forwards, not backwards, and always include the most in need,” said a humbled Mr Scioli. “Argentines don’t want to go back to [macroeconomic] adjustments, devaluations and indebtedness. My commitment is to be a president who represents all Argentines, not just a few.”

With Argentines also voting for congressional deputies, senators and regional governors on Sunday, perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the victory for the candidate for Mr Macri’s “Let’s Change” coalition in the province of Buenos Aires, by far the most populous in the country with about 37 per cent of the nation’s voters.

María Eugenia Vidal was leading with almost 40 per cent of the vote in what has traditionally been a Peronist stronghold owing to its large working-class population. The government’s candidate, Aníbal Fernández, who is the president’s cabinet chief but no relation to the president, was trailing with 35 per cent.

“Tonight we are making history,” Ms Vidal told ecstatic supporters. “We made the impossible possible. We changed resignation for hope, sadness for enthusiasm and joy, the past for the future.”

4. ARGENTINA’S ECONOMY A POISONED CHALICE FOR PRESIDENT’S SUCCESSOR (Financial Times)
By Benedict Mander in Buenos Aires
October 25, 2015

Whoever wins Argentina’s presidential elections on Sunday will inherit an economy in dire straits. Restricted access to foreign currency has caused the country’s reserves to decline to dangerously low levels.

Most observers expect President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to hand over power on December 10 without the economy suffering another big financial shock. But her successor may not be so lucky.

How bad is it?

Pretty bad. At the root of the problem is a ballooning fiscal deficit, now about 7-8 per cent of national output, which is being financed by printing money. It should be no surprise, therefore, that Argentina has one of the highest inflation rates in the world. It reached about 30 per cent last year but has since fallen thanks to stalled economic growth.

It does not help that Argentina cannot borrow abroad because of a continuing creditor dispute. Strict capital controls were introduced in 2011 that led to a massively overvalued official exchange rate — and a plummeting black market rate — while foreign reserves have been in steady decline ever since. Net reserves will end the year below $10bn. Few dispute that this situation is unsustainable.

What are the candidates going to do?

Faced with an economic time bomb, even Daniel Scioli, the government-backed candidate, has admitted that reforms are necessary — although he insists that any changes must be “gradual” and that there will be no “adjustment”. But he has been vague about what he will actually do, in part because he needs to toe the government line and thus keep Ms Fernández and her supporters on side until the elections.

Nevertheless, his economic advisers admit in private that it will be important to reach a swift deal with the “holdout” creditors so Argentina can access international finance to plug the deficit. That is all the more important for Mr Scioli because he says he will not remove capital controls quickly or devalue the currency, defending the central bank’s management of the exchange rate.

He pledges to bring inflation down to single-digits during his term and is emphatic about the importance of attracting foreign investment, hoping for some $30bn a year. He promises businesses that they will be “profitable” but he has been non-committal on what he would do about quotas and export taxes.

Chart – Argentina’s fiscal balance as % of GDP

And the other guy?

Mauricio Macri, the market darling, is billing himself as the turnround candidate, although he has attempted to assuage fears that he will implement “shock treatment”.

Nevertheless, committed to free and open markets, he wants to normalise Argentina’s economic relations with the rest of the world, especially in trade and finance, which also involves resolving the dispute with the holdout creditors.

Central to this idea is restoring credibility and independence to Argentina’s institutions, especially the judiciary, the central bank and the discredited statistics institute.

Mr Macri argues that there is plenty of room to bring down the fiscal deficit without an adjustment simply by making spending more efficient — although this would involve reviewing costly subsidies.
But he has pledged to remove capital controls immediately, and to let the currency float freely, which it is hoped will lead to big inward flows of investment. He would also ask Alejandro Vanoli, the central bank president, to resign.

To stimulate more investment, Mr Macri has also promised to abolish quotas and taxes on exports, although not entirely on soya exports, which are the most profitable. His advisers also reckon they can bring inflation down to 4 per cent in the first two years of his presidency.

Will these plans work?

The big difference between Mr Scioli and Mr Macri is the speed at which they would attack the economy’s problems. Most economists agree on the problems themselves, and what needs to be done about them.

But with Mr Scioli, the danger is that he will move too slowly, held back by those resistant to change and loyal to Ms Fernández, as well as his own fear of the political risks involved. If so, the market could end up forcing an adjustment on him.

With Mr Macri, on the other hand, there is a risk that he could move too fast — especially in removing capital controls, which may not automatically lead to it “raining dollars” as Mr Macri hopes.

5. RUNOFF APPEARS LIKELY IN RACE FOR ARGENTINA’S PRESIDENT (CNN)
By Melissa Gray and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
October 26, 2015

(CNN)The race to succeed Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as Argentina’s president appeared headed for a runoff Monday, with her party’s candidate in a tight race with the outgoing mayor of Buenos Aires.

With nearly 80% of polling places counted, Daniel Scioli of Fernandez’s Front for Victory coalition and Mauricio Macri of the Let’s Change coalition each had 35.48%, according to official results.

In third place at 21.23% was Sergio Massa, who earlier Sunday said his coalition, United for a New Alternative, did not get the numbers it was hoping for and was not in the top two.

According to the constitution, to win the presidency a candidate must either win 45% of the vote or have an advantage of 10 percentage points over their closest rival.

If neither requirement is met, the top two candidates compete in a runoff, which would be held November 22.

Fernandez was elected in 2007, succeeding her husband, Nestor Kirchner, who served one term. He died of a heart attack five years ago this week.

She won re-election in 2011.

Both Massa and Scioli, whom Fernandez endorsed as her successor, anticipated being in a second round of voting.

“It is an irreversible trend at a national level: There is a second round in Argentina,” Sen. Ernesto Sanz said from the headquarters of Let’s Change before the results began coming in.

Asked about the possibility of a runoff, Alberto Samid, vice president of the Central Market and a close confidante of Scioli, told CNN: “If there is a second round, we will win twice.”

A major issue in the election is whether the new leader will end the country’s fight against New York hedge funds, an unresolved debt debacle that has shut out Argentina from much of the global economy while suffering from massive inflation, declining cash reserves and major economic growth.

6. ARGENTINE OPPOSITION CHALLENGER MACRI FORCES RUN-OFF IN TIGHT ELECTION (Reuters News)
By Hugh Bronstein and Richard Lough
October 26, 2015

Conservative opposition candidate Mauricio Macri stunned Argentina’s ruling party with an unexpectedly strong showing in the presidential election on Sunday, forcing a run-off vote next month, preliminary results showed.

Daniel Scioli, backed by outgoing leftist President Cristina Fernandez, had a big lead in pre-election opinion polls but the results on Sunday showed the two men in a tight race with everything to play for in the run-off.

With returns in from almost 97 percent of polling stations, Scioli had 36.8 percent support while Macri had 34.4 percent.

“What happened today will change politics in this country,” Macri, the pro-business mayor of Buenos Aires, told thousands of jubilant supporters inside his campaign headquarters.

Scioli could extend his lead as the last remaining votes come in but it was still a disappointing night for him and he looks vulnerable in the run-off election on Nov. 22.

The outcome of the election will shape how the South American country tackles its economic woes, including high inflation, a central bank running precariously low on dollars and a sovereign debt default.

Scioli is running on a platform of “gradual change” and has promised to maintain popular welfare programs while Macri advocates moving quickly to open up the economy.

Stung by Macri’s showing, Scioli launched an unusually blunt attack on his rival on Sunday night, saying he would want to scrap popular welfare policies like one that gives benefits to mothers for each of their children.

“We have two very different visions,” Scioli said.

The first-round results were met with stunned silence at Scioli’s headquarters, where supporters earlier celebrated what they expected to be a convincing lead or even outright victory.

“I would love to be able to tell you that we will able to come back in the second round, but I don’t know,” said one supporter.

To avoid a run-off, Scioli had needed 45 percent support on Sunday, or 40 percent with a 10 percentage point lead over his nearest rival. In the end, he fell far short.

‘TOTALLY UNEXPECTED’

“The polls were totally wrong. This is totally unexpected,” said political analyst Ignacio Labaqui. “An eventual Scioli victory, which was the consensus forecast, is clearly at stake.”

In a speech before thousands of party militants, Scioli reached out to swing voters for their support.

“United together we will triumph,” Scioli told voters in a rallying call. “I call upon the undecided and independent voters to join this cause.”

Scioli will seek to exploit a perception among many voters that Macri, the son of a construction magnate, would restore the kind of right-wing policies widely blamed for triggering a deep economic crisis in 2001-2002, when millions fell into poverty.

In third place on Sunday was moderate lawmaker Sergio Massa, a former Fernandez cabinet chief who split from her party in 2013. He won about 21.3 percent support and the race for his voters will start on Monday.

While some will find Macri’s shock therapy proposals hard to stomach, others believe Scioli will be unable or unwilling to end Fernandez’s divisive and populist policies.

Scioli, a former powerboat champion who is governor of Buenos Aires province, draws much of his support from poorer Argentines who credit Fernandez with strengthening Argentina’s social safety net.

Fernandez was barred by law from seeking a third consecutive term, but could return as a presidential candidate in 2019.

Macri has vowed to start dismantling her protectionist currency and trade controls on his first day in office if he wins. Fernandez will hand over to her successor on Dec. 10.

Macri is seen by Wall Street investors as the candidate most likely to negotiate with a group of “holdout” hedge funds whose suit over bonds defaulted on by Argentina in 2002 caused a new and ongoing default last year.

“It’s a shocking result and markets will likely react positively,” Alejo Costa of local investment bank Puente said of the first-round vote. “For U.S. dollar bonds, the market will reassign chances of a holdout resolution under a potential Macri administration.”

Partial results also suggested the ruling Front for Victory party lost clout in the lower chamber of Congress, making it less of an obstacle to a debt deal if Macri prevails in November.

In another damaging blow to the ruling party, Macri’s alliance won the gubernatorial election in Buenos Aires province, Argentina’s most populous, where Fernandez had hoped to install her cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez.

7. ARGENTINES VOTE TO ELECT NEW PRESIDENT (Dow Jones Institutional News)
By Taos Turner
26 October 2015

BUENOS AIRES–Argentina’s ruling party presidential candidate, Daniel Scioli, suffered a setback in Sunday’s election as his adversary, the business-friendly mayor of Buenos Aires, was outperforming him in a first round of voting.

The unexpected showing of the center-right mayor, Mauricio Macri, took pollsters and the country’s political establishment by surprise. It also assured a runoff election on Nov. 22, the first in Argentine history.

Mr. Scioli, 58 years old and the governor of Buenos Aires Province, had a clear lead heading into the election with polls putting him on the cusp of a first-round win. But as results came in after midnight on Monday, more than six hours after polls had closed, Mr. Macri had almost 36% of the vote compared with about 35% for Mr. Scioli.

Mr. Scioli appeared likely to pull ahead as results from poor districts come in through the early morning hours, said Ernesto Calvo, a political science professor at the University of Maryland who has closely tracked the Argentine campaign.

But Mr. Scioli, a former world champion powerboat racer, had campaigned hard to win in the first round. His weaker-than-expected performance is a blow not only to his campaign but to President Cristina Kirchner and their ruling Peronist Victory Front coalition.

At stake are Mrs. Kirchner’s trademark policies, including heavy government spending to expand welfare programs, currency controls and import barriers that economists say have stalled the economy and spurred 25% annual inflation.

8. ARGENTINA HEADS FOR PRESIDENTIAL RUNOFF (Dow Jones Institutional News)
25 October 2015

BUENOS AIRES—The business-friendly mayor of Argentina’s bustling capital won enough votes in Sunday’s presidential election to trigger the first runoff in the country’s history, dealing a startling setback to the candidate backed by the ruling party.

The unexpectedly strong showing by Mauricio Macri, the center-right mayor of Buenos Aires, took pollsters and the country’s political establishment by surprise. It also assured a runoff election on Nov. 22.

Daniel Scioli, 58 years old and the governor of Buenos Aires Province, had a clear lead heading into the election with polls putting him on the cusp of a first-round win.

But as results came in early Monday, more than seven hours after polls had closed, Mr. Scioli had 35.6% of the vote compared with 35.4% for Mr. Macri. Almost 82% of the votes had been counted.

Mr. Scioli appeared likely to pull ahead as results from poor districts come in, said Ernesto Calvo, a political-science professor at the University of Maryland who has closely tracked the Argentine campaign.

But Mr. Scioli, a former world champion powerboat racer, had campaigned hard to win in the first round. His weaker-than-expected performance is a blow not only to his campaign but also to President Cristina Kirchner and their ruling Peronist Victory Front coalition.

At stake are Mrs. Kirchner’s trademark policies, including heavy government spending to expand welfare programs, currency controls and import barriers that economists say have stalled the economy and spurred 25% annual inflation.

“This result represents a shock, positioning Mr. Macri within reach of the presidency,” said Mr. Calvo.

The second round will signal the end of 12 years of rule by Mrs. Kirchner and her late husband, Né stor.

Whoever is elected will have to make tough choices to address a moribund economy and a rapidly rising budget deficit.

In a speech, Mr. Scioli asked for his followers to “keep accompanying us” and launched into the kind of sharp attack on Mr. Macri that veered from the largely civil discourse that had marked campaigning until now.

“It it were up to Macri, we wouldn’t have universal benefits for children, YPF, nor Aerolineas,” Mr. Scioli said, referring to social programs and the oil and airline industries Ms. Kirchner nationalized.

Mr. Scioli added, in comments widely interpreted here as an opening salvo to a new campaign ahead of the second round, that there were “two very different visions about the present and future of Argentina are at play. Our priorities are the poor, the workers and the middle class.”

Mr. Macri, in a lively speech before overjoyed supporters, celebrated early results that seemed to show his campaign was still alive. “What happened today changes the politics of this country,” he said.

Mr. Macri’s Republican Proposal Party, or Pro, was also close to winning the governorship of the Buenos Aires province after 28 years of uninterrupted rule by the Peronists.

Despite the setback for the Victory Front, Mrs. Kirchner is leaving office on Dec. 10 with a 42% approval rating, according to the polling firm Management & Fit, the highest of any departing president in modern Argentine history. She is constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term.

A win for Mr. Macri would significantly alter Argentina’s political landscape and mark the emergence of a new and competitive political coalition led by the Pro. In interviews inside and outside Buenos Aires, some voters said they were ready for a change.

“It’s become too hard to live in Argentina,” said Liliana Levy, 48, a systems analyst who voted for Mr. Macri. She says half of her salary goes to paying rent and that she struggles to care for her elderly mother. Mr. Macri’s background as a businessman appealed to her and she says he was a good mayor.

9. ARGENTINA’S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION SEEN HEADING TO NOVEMBER RUNOFF (Platts Commodity News)
By Charles Newbery
26 October 2015

Buenos Aires (Platts)–26Oct2015/1210 am EDT/410 GMT Argentina’s presidential election Sunday likely will go to a November runoff against the two leading candidates, in a race widely watched by the oil industry for signs of improvement in policies and investment conditions.

Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri took 36% of the votes for Cambiemos, a coalition of more conservative parties, according to a count of 70% of the ballots by the National Electoral Board.

The first official results were released just past midnight local time (0300 GMT Monday), more than six hours after voting ended.

The results put Macri ahead of Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli, who took 35% for Front for Victory, a populist left-of-center party that has been in power since 2003, according to the preliminary results.

Sergio Massa, a left-of-center congressman, trailed in third with 21%, while the other three candidates were far behind.

If the results hold at these percentages, Scioli and Macri will go to a November 22 runoff. To avoid a runoff, a candidate needs 45% of the votes or at least 40% plus a 10-percentage-point lead on second place, according to election rules.

This shifts attention to which candidate will pick up the losing candidates’ supporters. Ahead of Sunday’s election, analysts said a possible scenario would be that those who voted against Scioli would cast their ballots for Macri in the runoff.

However, there is potential for Massa’s voters siding with Scioli, as both men are part of Peronism, a nationalist political movement that has dominated since the 1940s.

REBUILDING SUPPLY

Either way, the winner is expected to take office December 10 and work to rebuild energy supplies.

Macri has taken on as an energy adviser Juan Jose Aranguren, a former president of Shell Argentina, a leading upstream and downstream player.

Scioli already has been taking steps to plan for the energy rebuild if he becomes president. He has vowed to keep domestic oil prices at between $63/b and $77/b even if international prices are lower, as they are now at about $48/b.

He also has promised to implement a program to boost natural gas production, offering to pay a $5/MMBtu subsidy on top of the average gas price in 2014 to producers who increase output. The average for state-run YPF, the country’s biggest gas producer, was $4.29/MMBtu in 2014, meaning that the incentive could be more than a current program for paying $7.50/MMBtu for output from new developments.

Argentina has huge oil and gas resources in largely untapped shale and tight plays, as well as potential for offshore finds. This has attracted the attention of Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, Total and other companies to drill for the resources, targeting at first the Vaca Muerta shale play.

The first development of the play by YPF and Chevron has helped to stabilize national oil production and boost that of gas after a decade of decline.

Argentina produced an average of 532,000 b/d of oil in the first eight months of this year and 117.3 million cu m/d of gas, according to the Argentine Oil and Gas Institute, an industry group.

10. CONTINUITY NOT CHANGE FOR ARGENTINA’S VOTERS ON ELECTION DAY (The Christian Science Monitor)
Jonathan Gilbert
25 October 2015

In 2001, Enrique Guastavino’s business renting pedal boats on a lake here was at a breaking point. “I didn’t have enough money to pay my staff,” he says. Today, however, the business is thriving and Mr. Guastavino says the government is to thank.

In recent years, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has faced scandals, street protests, and apocalyptic news coverage, and many observers abroad believed her party was on its way out. Mrs. Kirchner has presided over economic tumult, including a currency devaluation last year. Import restrictions have hindered domestic manufacturers and global prices of soy, Argentina’s biggest export, have crashed. Economic growth has slowed sharply since 2011.

Nevertheless, Kirchner’s leftist Front for Victory party seems well positioned to win a fourth consecutive term in elections on Sunday. This resilience reflects strong approval in several sectors of how the party has governed Argentina over the past 12 years. Analysts say the “main street” economy appears healthy – and voters like Guastavino are content. Unemployment, for instance, is around 7 percent and policymakers have hiked wages for influential trade union workers, even as inflation nears 28 percent. This is far from the chaos of 2001-2002, when economic turbulence plunged millions into poverty, and hyperinflation a decade earlier.

“I can’t complain about her government,” says Angelica Laplume, a security guard, noting the improvements under Kirchner. “There’s work for who wants it, the restaurants are full, people go on vacation.”

‘Sharp change’?Kirchner cannot run for a third consecutive term in Sunday’s elections, so the Front for Victory’s candidate is Daniel Scioli, a state governor. Polls give him a big lead over his center-right rival, Mauricio Macri, of the Cambiemos or “Let’s change” alliance. But it is unclear whether Mr. Scioli will win enough votes to avoid a run-off next month.

Scioli, a former powerboat racer, is promising to take the reins of Kirchner’s broader political project. This includes her focus on reducing the equality gap, which she has tackled in part by expanding social benefits, a cornerstone policy that is supported by many Argentines.

Sixty-two percent of Argentines want some form of continuity, according to research released by Management and Fit, a local polling firm. This has forced Mr. Macri to modify his campaign in order to appeal to these voters. He’s promised to keep social benefits, like child welfare, and to safeguard nationalized companies. As a result, the difference between Kirchner’s party and its competitors is much less noticeable.

“At the beginning of the campaign the talk was about sharp change, but it wasn’t resonating much and Macri shifted towards Scioli,” says Louisa Richey, a senior risk analyst at the Cefeidas Group in Buenos Aires.

Continuity with changeStill, there are many who prefer change. They have grown weary, for instance, of Kirchner’s imperious style and argue that her protectionist economic policies and nationalist rhetoric have isolated Argentina from the world.

In turn, Mr Scioli has also reached out to these voters, offering — as he did on a popular TV show this week — to implement “continuity with change.”

“We can’t say that the mandate is either change or continuity,” says Raul G. Aragon, a pollster and political commentator here. “It’s not a dichotomy; it’s more nuanced and Scioli is the best representative of it.”

On the streets of Buenos Aires, this nuance was reflected among voters. “It would be a good change,” says Luis Addesi, who runs a convenience store, of Scioli’s candidacy. “We would have continuity but he’s going to bring in his own politics, too.”

Changes would include a more consensual style of leadership, according to Scioli’s advisers, and moves to correct economic distortions, like the inflation rate, a high budget deficit, and low reserves of hard currency. These would require moves to which Kirchner has previously been averse, like negotiating with hedge funds in New York and easing electricity and gas subsidies, economists say.

Still, there are many Argentines that believe change isn’t possible under Kirchner’s party, which is part of a larger political movement that has dominated Argentina for decades.

“They seem very corrupt,” says Lidya Bruzzese, a housewife who is ditching Front for Victory to vote for Macri. “And also very authoritarian. I don’t see the progress.”

In the gritty conurbation that encloses Buenos Aires where Kirchner’s party is strong, Macri is gaining ground. “I’m tired of 30 years of the same; I want something else,” says Reinaldo Capparelli, the owner of a plant store.

But even staunch supporters of Macri pointed to the value of preserving some of Kirchner’s policies. “Macri has to keep the social benefits,” says Christian Afalo, a blacksmith. “If he doesn’t, the whole world could fall in on him.”

President Kirchner has presided over a slowing economy and a rocky relationship with foreign creditors. But her party’s candidate for president is in the lead ahead of Sunday’s poll.

11. ARGENTINE CHIEF’S ALLY STRONG FAVORITE (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
By Andres D’Alessandro and Chris Kraul
25 October 2015

Despite Argentina’s slumping economy, rising crime rates and spiraling inflation, an ally of outgoing President Cristina Fernandez is the heavy favorite to place first in Sunday’s
presidential election, a reflection of the popularity of her populist social programs and human rights record.

The question is whether Buenos Aires state Gov. Daniel Scioli will tally enough votes to win the election outright against his two main opponents, Buenos Aires city Mayor Mauricio Macri and Congressman Sergio Massa.

To do so, Scioli must win at least 45 percent of the votes, or garner 40 percent and outdistance his nearest opponent by a margin of at least 10 percentage points.

Recent polls show Scioli with between 38 percent and 41 percent support, Macri between 29 percent and 32 percent and Massa between 20 percent and 23 percent.

In any scenario, the election means the end of 12 years of Kirchnerismo, which critics call a somewhat authoritarian variation of the socialist politics that have long dominated in Argentina.

The late Nestor Kirchner held the top job from 2003 to 2007, and was succeeded in office by Fernandez, his wife, whose second four-year term ends Dec. 10.

She will leave an economy suffering from 28 percent inflation and stagnant growth after a miserable 2014 in which total economic output shrank 2 percent.

The slowdown’s effects have been masked by a burst in election-year public spending that will create a large government deficit this year, a mess her successor will have to clean up, said economist Cynthia Moskovits of the FIEL think tank in Buenos Aires.

But Scioli, the Victory Front party candidate and the president’s choice to succeed her, will benefit from the solid support she enjoys among young and lower-middle-class voters. They approve of her wealth redistribution efforts and subsidies of public transit and utilities prices, as well as her determined prosecution of those culpable for deaths, kidnappings and torture of thousands of victims during the military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983.

Many Argentines credit Kirchner and Fernandez with rescuing the country from political and economic chaos that followed a bond default and devaluation in 2001.

Violent protests in that era resulted in 32 deaths. The country saw five presidents take office from late 2000 through 2001.

The Kirchners’ social programs included expanded pension coverage, elderly care and education subsidies. The programs were financed partly by higher tax and duty revenue produced by the global commodities boom that saw skyrocketing prices and demand for Argentine wheat, soy and beef.

The Kirchners’ policies reduced the poverty rate from 57 percent in 2002 to 25 percent in 2014. Their massive boost in public sector hiring helped lower unemployment rate from 21 percent in 2002 to the current 5 percent.

“People see her policies as benefiting those in need,” said Columbia University political science professor Maria Victoria Murillo. “Her popularity is more than 40 percent, which is not minor given the economy that’s not so good and the fact she has been around for eight years.”

Other actions taken by Fernandez have been less popular, including the nationalization of public services, an airline and the biggest oil company.

She is also criticized for a perceived hostility toward the media and her refusal to settle the dispute with “holdout” bondholders dating back to the 2001 default. That failure has hurt Argentina’s access to the global financial markets, Moskovits said.

Many have also decried what they see as Fernandez trying to perpetuate her hold on power, like socialist heads of state in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela in recent years.

But her plan to run for a third term was frustrated by reversals in the 2013 legislative elections that ended any chance of a needed constitutional reform.

For those reasons, even Scioli has tried to put some distance between himself and his patron, saying that, if elected, he would name ministers who oppose some of Fernandez’s policies.

He has also said that he would settle the bondholder dispute once and for all, and that he would take a tougher approach to rising crime.

12. ELECTION WILL END A PRESIDENT’S TERM, BUT NOT HER HOLD ON ARGENTINA (The New York Times)
By Simon Romero and Jonathan Gilbert
25 October 2015

BUENOS AIRES — Her party’s candidate is widely seen as the front-runner. One of her closest aides is his running mate. Her son and her economy minister are running for Congress, too. And if they don’t win, a new law prevents whoever replaces her from undoing one of her signature economic policies.

Argentines go to the polls on Sunday to pick their next president, officially marking the end of an era. For the last 12 years, the presidency has been shared by one couple — Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband, Néstor Kirchner — whose influence on the country has been so sweeping that they have their own political movement: Kirchnerismo.

But while Mrs. Kirchner, 62, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term, she is not going quietly. After emerging as one of Argentina’s strongest leaders in decades, she has sought to assert her lasting sway with a range of calculated moves in recent months.

Daniel Scioli, the candidate endorsed by Mrs. Kirchner, speaks about a continuity with her policies, while suggesting a few important tweaks, like improving strained ties with the United States and Argentina’s creditors.

Adding to the message that her course will be maintained, Carlos Zannini, her legal secretary, who is believed to be one of her closest advisers, was picked to be Mr. Scioli’s vice-presidential running mate.

Mrs. Kirchner also pushed through a new law that would require congressional approval to sell state-owned stakes in companies, chiefly a portfolio acquired when she nationalized pension funds in 2008.

Axel Kicillof, her economy minister, said the measure would ensure that any effort to privatize such holdings in the future would not be a ”unilateral decision by the executive branch,” making it much harder to undo some of her most contentious decisions. Mrs. Kirchner herself proudly said that ”nobody’s pen will now be enough” to dilute the role of the state.

Mrs. Kirchner, who has often been underestimated by her opponents, has also moved to place supporters in important positions in the central bank and across the judiciary. Beyond that, her son, Máximo Kirchner, and Mr. Kicillof, a rising star in her administration, are also running for Congress.

People in her government contend that her influence is here to stay.

With his three-day beard, abhorrence for neckties and an office stacked high with tomes on political philosophy, Ricardo Forster fits right into the high echelons of Mrs. Kirchner’s leftist government. He even has the lofty job title to prove it: secretary for strategic coordination of national thought.

”Conflict is the energy of democracy,” Mr. Forster, a 58-year-old professor of philosophy, said in an interview. He defended Mrs. Kirchner’s combative governing style while listing the highlights of the Kirchner presidencies, including the broad expansion of antipoverty programs, and the nationalization of pension funds and the country’s largest oil company.

Some might brush off Mrs. Kirchner’s recent maneuvering as a last grasp for clout, but her popularity at the end of her second contentious term is relatively strong. With Argentina’s economy posting modest growth this year, avoiding catastrophic predictions, her approval ratings are around 42 percent, well above those of Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, and Chile’s president, Michelle Bachelet, both of whom are battling corruption scandals and economic slowdowns.

”I take my hat off to her,” said Silvia Ribé, 45, an actor who was drinking coffee with friends at Gargantúa, a bar and community theater here. ”She didn’t care about losing favor abroad. She was determined to cut ties with the international system,” she added, referring to Mrs. Kirchner’s battles with the International Monetary Fund and a group of creditors in New York.

”There’s something hazy about the figure of Scioli,” Ms. Ribé continued, explaining that she was concerned he could veer too far from Mrs. Kirchner’s leftist path. ”He might sink us into the mud,” she said. ”We don’t know if Cristina is going to put a revolver against his head so that he does everything to the letter.”

Mr. Scioli, 58, a former powerboat racer who lost his right arm when his boat flipped in 1989, switched to politics in the 1990s. He won a seat in Congress as a supporter of Carlos Menem, a former president from a conservative wing of Peronism, the ideologically malleable movement that dominates Argentine politics four decades after the death of the three-time leader Juan Domingo Perón.

But not everything is lined up for the continued influence of Mrs. Kirchner, who succeeded her husband as president in 2007 and was re-elected in 2011. While her own leftist movement, Kirchnerismo, has emerged as the dominant faction within Peronism, political analysts question whether that will remain the case after she leaves office.

Mr. Scioli served as Nestor Kirchner’s vice president from 2003 to 2007, but as governor of Buenos Aires Province he has sometimes been at odds with Mrs. Kirchner and her supporters, who have viewed him as too close to corporate interests.

”His conflict with Cristina is inevitable,” said Rosendo Fraga, an Argentine political analyst, reflecting a preference here for using Mrs. Kirchner’s first name. He noted the expectation that she could try to run for president again in 2019, an ambition that could put her on a collision course with Mr. Scioli.

Mrs. Kirchner herself seems to be welcoming talk about a possible return. She recently met with the author of a line of graffiti, ”Embrace me until Cristina returns,” images of which have been widely shared on social networks.

In a well-polished video on her Facebook page, Mrs. Kirchner is shown defiantly celebrating her policies. Mr. Scioli makes an appearance, too, as if reminding him and the electorate of who paved the way for his candidacy.

”If Scioli wins,” Mr. Fraga said, ”this will be the most important political conflict of the next period, something that is already being insinuated.”

Looking forward to the end of a long stretch in which Mrs. Kirchner relished clashing with opponents in the news media and the business establishment, some Argentines cannot wait for the president and her polarizing style of governing to leave office.

”It’s the best thing that could happen to us,” said Juan Addesi, 52, a watch repairman. Mr. Addesi, who plans to vote for Nicolás del Caño, a socialist, said he was angry that his business had been hindered by import restrictions that make it difficult to obtain spare parts. ”I could be 10 times better off,” he said.

Others question how Mrs. Kirchner, whose personal wealth has grown over the past decade, according to her sworn declarations, will handle claims of corruption once she leaves office.

She is under investigation over accusations that a family hotel business in Patagonia was used to launder money. A businessman with close ties to the Kirchners has been accused of paying for block reservations through his companies, but the rooms appeared to have never been occupied. Mrs. Kirchner’s chief of staff said the investigation had become a defamation campaign against her.

Claudio Bonadio, a judge leading the case, was removed from the inquiry this year after he ordered several raids on offices of the hotel business. Judge Daniel Rafecas, his replacement, is widely viewed as partial to the government. In 2012, he was removed from a corruption case involving the vice president, Amado Boudou, after sending WhatsApp messages advising Mr. Boudou’s lawyer. One of Mrs. Kirchner’s opponents warned this week that the inquiry into the hotel business could be shelved, an expectation echoed by others.

Still, Mrs. Kirchner is trying to project her sway beyond the elections, which could go to a second round if no candidate wins outright on Sunday.

”It’s the last kiss of power for her,” said Federico Finchelstein, an Argentine historian at the New School for Social Research in New York, noting that Mrs. Kirchner had held a teleconference recently with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, emphasizing plans to forge closer ”strategic” ties between the two countries.

”She’s trying to assert the foreign policy of the next administration,” Mr. Finchelstein said. ”But if history prevails, there will be an exodus to the new president. After all, he’s the one who controls the purse strings and effectively signs the checks from the executive branch.”

Mrs. Kirchner’s supporters say that much depends on the paths pursued by the president and her successor.

”She’s not going to interfere in any decision that Scioli takes,” said Mr. Forster, the secretary of national thought. Then he qualified that statement, adding, ”unless there’s a dramatic shift in what this political project has consisted of until now.”

13. ARGENTINE VOTE-BUYING PRACTICE UNDER NEW SCRUTINY AS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS NEAR (The New York Times)
By Jonathan Gilbert
24 October 2015

BUENOS AIRES — Some voters received sacks stuffed with bottles of cooking oil, pasta and flour. Others were ferried to the polls in convoys of cars. There were even reports of a raffle in which the grand prize was a Chevrolet.

In return, the voters promised to cast their ballots for particular candidates during recent municipal elections in Tucumán, in the north of Argentina. The rampant vote buying was branded a ”scourge” last month by judges looking into the validity of the polls, although the results were allowed to stand since the practice, which experts say is widespread in Argentina, is not actually illegal.

The vote buying, documented by election observers from the National University of La Plata and highlighted in the news media, has ignited debates about the frailty of the country’s democracy as it prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday.

”The problem is poverty and that there are people willing to lose their voting freedom for a bag of food,” Margarita Stolbizer, a candidate for the Progressive Front, said in an interview with the newspaper Perfil.

Vote buying strategies will probably sway 5 to 12 percent of Argentine voters on Sunday, according to estimates by Rodrigo Zarazaga, the director of the Center for Research and Social Action, a Jesuit institute. Mr. Zarazaga is an expert on clientelism, the term used when politicians turn the electorate into clients over a long period of time, offering services and goods in exchange for support, a common practice in the region that has been closely scrutinized here in recent weeks.

Many voters fear that such practices could skew the results of the national elections. ”They won’t vote according to their convictions,” said Héctor del Bianco, 61, who works at a car showroom. ”They’ll vote because of the money.”

In Tucumán, while all parties engaged in vote buying, the majority was attributed to the Front for Victory, an arm of the Peronist political movement that has dominated Argentine politics for decades, and which is led by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The party has been in power since 2003, and is well placed to secure a fourth consecutive term in Sunday’s elections, led by Mrs. Kirchner’s successor, Daniel Scioli.

Some party officials conceded that there was vote buying in Tucumán, where the party’s candidate for governor, Juan Luis Manzur, won easily.

But Mr. Scioli, the governor of Buenos Aires Province, denounced the opposition’s efforts to annul his victory. ”It’s the impotence of the opposition,” he told reporters. ”They didn’t get the result they hoped for, so they looked to delegitimize the elections.”

Under Mrs. Kirchner, supporters say, the Front for Victory has modernized Argentina’s democracy, which is enjoying its longest unbroken run — 32 years — since a suffrage law was passed a century ago. They underscore Mrs. Kirchner’s liberal social agenda and her expansion of welfare benefits. She has also pushed for the prosecutions of former military leaders on human rights crimes charges and moved to restrict the size of news media empires.

But this progress has been undermined by a resilient culture of vote buying that is most rife within the Peronist movement, according to experts, explaining that clientelism has long been practiced by Argentina’s incumbent parties.

”If you’re buying the votes of the poor, you are silencing their preferences, and that is tragic,” said Mariela Szwarcberg, a politics professor at Reed College in Portland, Ore.

Evidence of vote buying in Tucumán includes a video posted online of two men who were candidates for a town council. They had filmed themselves driving to the town, Tafí Viejo, to hand out packs of herbal tea. ”Let’s make a trade,” says one, before adding, ”Vote for me.”

The men, who later claimed they had been joking, were candidates for Kolina, an organization that is part of the Front for Victory’s grass-roots support network.

Sacks containing staples like flour, cooking oil and sugar, worth a total of $15 to $20, were systematically distributed by several parties to voters statewide, said Sebastián López Calendino, one of the election observers.

Other practices condemned by the judges were the use of convoys, reported by election observers, to transport voters to polling places and raffles organized in the days before the elections.

One Front for Victory official raffled off a Chevrolet hatchback car, according to the local news media.

There is no provision in Argentina’s electoral code that explicitly criminalizes vote buying. Julia Pomares, a specialist on election issues and director at Cippec, an Argentine public policy research center, noted that the validity of the elections in Tucumán was challenged on constitutional grounds. Because polling booths ensure secrecy, the judges decided, vote buying does not actually suppress the constitutional right to freely choose candidates.

Politicians often use networks of go-betweens, known as ”punteros,” to whom they give public funds and resources. They supply poor voters with basic items, like food, medicine and construction materials, experts say.

Often, these campaign workers — who were the subject of a fictional hit TV series in 2011 called ”The Puntero” — also hand out welfare benefits and jobs.

In Argentina, the punteros are largely concentrated in the sprawling outskirts of Buenos Aires, the capital city that is home to nearly a third of the country. In these outlying neighborhoods, Peronists have the most extensive networks, Mr. Zarazaga said. But other parties, like Republican Proposal, led by Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires and Mr. Scioli’s chief rival in the elections, also rely on punteros.

”It’s a historic and commonplace practice; Peronism gets stigmatized, but there’s no party that hasn’t used it,” said Mario Gómez, 58, who works at a cultural center in Villa 21-24, a slum on the city’s south side.

”People are used to it,” said Yessica Ibáñez, 32, a self-described ”full-time mom” from Villa 21-24, explaining how friends and family had been offered jobs as janitors, or goods like mattresses and corrugated iron, a useful roofing material. ”If you ask for somebody’s vote, they ask you what you’re offering in exchange.”

Experts say that the punteros are often allowed to administer access to some of the welfare benefits and social programs expanded by the Front for Victory. Some argue that by doing this they are performing a vital role, spanning the gap between the state and marginalized corners of the country that policy makers might ignore.

”People don’t get the social ambivalence,” said Javier Auyero, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin who researched clientelism here in the 1990s when, he said, it surged under a Peronist government. ”It’s a strategy of control, but it’s also how poor people solve their most pressing needs,” he added.

But Sergio Massa, a congressman who is third in the polls, has promised to ”sweep away the go-betweens who extort people with welfare benefits.”

”That breaks the circle of clientelism,” he told reporters.

14. ARGENTINES FAVOR OUTGOING PRESIDENT’S ALLY DESPITE NATIONAL WOES (Los Angeles Times.com)
By Andres D’Alessandro, Chris Kraul
24 October 2015

Despite Argentina’s slumping economy, rising crime rates and spiraling inflation, an ally of outgoing President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is the heavy favorite to place first in Sunday’s presidential election, a reflection of the popularity of her populist social programs and human rights record.

The question is whether Buenos Aires state Gov. Daniel Scioli will tally enough votes to win the election outright against his two main opponents, Buenos Aires city Mayor Mauricio Macri and Congressman Sergio Massa.

To do so, Scioli must win at least 45% of the votes, or garner 40% and outdistance his nearest opponent by a margin of at least 10 percentage points. Recent polls show Scioli with between 38% and 41% support, Macri between 29% and 32% and Massa between 20% and 23%.

In any scenario, the election means the end of 12 years of Kirchnerismo, which critics call a somewhat authoritarian variation of the socialist politics that have long dominated in Argentina. The late Nestor Kirchner held the top job from 2003 to 2007, and was succeeded in office by Fernandez, his wife, whose second four-year term ends Dec. 10.

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She will leave an economy suffering from 28% inflation and stagnant growth after a miserable 2014 in which total economic output shrank 2%. The slowdown’s effects have been masked by a burst in election-year public spending that will create a large government deficit this year, a mess her successor will have to clean up, said economist Cynthia Moskovits of the FIEL think tank in Buenos Aires.

But Scioli, the Victory Front party candidate and the president’s choice to succeed her, will benefit from the solid support she enjoys among young and lower-middle-class voters. They approve of her wealth redistribution efforts and subsidies of public transit and utilities prices, as well as her determined prosecution of those culpable for deaths, kidnappings and torture of thousands of victims during the military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983.

Many Argentines credit Kirchner and Fernandez with rescuing the country from political and economic chaos that followed a bond default and devaluation in 2001. Violent protests in that era resulted in 32 deaths. The country saw five presidents take office from late 2000 through 2001.

The Kirchners’ social programs included expanded pension coverage, elderly care and education subsidies. The programs were financed partly by higher tax and duty revenue produced by the global commodities boom that saw skyrocketing prices and demand for Argentine wheat, soy and beef.

The Kirchners’ policies reduced the poverty rate from 57% in 2002 to 25% in 2014. Their massive boost in public sector hiring helped lower unemployment rate from 21% in 2002 to the current 5%.

“People see her policies as benefiting those in need,” said Columbia University political science professor Maria Victoria Murillo. “Her popularity is more than 40%, which is not minor given the economy that’s not so good and the fact she has been around for eight years.”

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Other actions taken by Fernandez have been less popular, including the nationalization of public services, an airline and the biggest oil company. She is also criticized for a perceived hostility toward the media and her refusal to settle the dispute with “holdout” bondholders dating back to the 2001 default. That failure has hurt Argentina’s access to the global financial markets, Moskovits said.

Many have also decried what they see as Fernandez trying to perpetuate her hold on power, like socialist heads of state in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela in recent years. But her plan to run for a third term was frustrated by reversals in the 2013 legislative elections that ended any chance of a needed constitutional reform.

For those reasons, even Scioli has tried to put some distance between himself and his patron, saying that, if elected, he would name ministers who oppose some of Fernandez’s policies. He has also said that he would settle the bondholder dispute once and for all, and that he would take a tougher approach to rising crime.

“Scioli has developed an ambiguous campaign with some definite differences with respect to Fernandez,” said political analyst Sergio Berensztein.

Cecilia Mosto, an analyst with the CIO public opinion consultants, said Scioli has successfully played both sides of the political fence.

“His campaign is oriented toward an alliance with the government while differentiating himself from an economic model that shows signs of exhaustion and of deteriorating institutional integrity, including corruption,” Mosto said. “This double game has given him an advantage against his opponents.”

Vilma Farias, 60, a domestic worker in Buenos Aires and longtime Fernandez supporter, said she will reluctantly vote for Scioli.

“I have my doubts about voting for him because I think we have to improve on things that [Fernandez] hasn’t done well, especially in the last few years,” Farias said. “But I think [Scioli] will be different from Cristina. I certainly hope so.”

Prior to his election as governor, Scioli, 58, also served as vice president under Kirchner, congressman and national secretary of sports and tourism. Before entering politics, he was an internationally known racer of high-speed boats. He lost an arm in a racing accident in 1989.

15. KIRCHNER FAMILY’S HOLD ON ARGENTINA FRAYS EVEN AT ITS PATAGONIAN SOURCE (The Wall Street Journal Online)
By John Otis
24 October 2015

As Argentines prepare to vote Sunday, powerful clan appears to be losing its cachet even in its hometown

RÍO GALLEGOS, Argentina—From the main drag to the graveyard of this windswept Patagonian outpost, the imprint of Argentina’s first family is everywhere.

Walls are decorated with graffiti lauding President Cristina Kirchner. Her late husband and predecessor, Néstor Kirchner, has an avenue named after him, and his remains lie in a mausoleum with an eternal flame partly inspired by Napoleon’s tomb. Staring down from campaign billboards are the faces of their son, Máximo Kirchner, and Alicia Kirchner, the president’s sister-in-law.

“Since 1987 there has always been a Kirchner on the ballot,” said Javier Bielle, a former legislator here in Santa Cruz province, the base of the Kirchner family’s political dynasty. This sparsely populated expanse of glaciers and oil fields in Argentina’s deep south is to the Kirchners, he said, “what Arkansas was for Bill and Hillary Clinton.”

Yet even here, the Kirchner juggernaut that has controlled the presidency over 12 years appears to be losing momentum as Argentines prepare to cast ballots in Sunday’s general elections.

Cristina Kirchner, 62 years old, is constitutionally barred from a third consecutive term but she could run again in 2019, and her 41.7% job-approval rating is higher than that of several other South American presidents. In speeches, Mrs. Kirchner has called on her handpicked successor and current presidential front-runner, Daniel Scioli, to stay true to her populist economic policies that have included company takeovers and currency controls.

Mr. Scioli has sent strong signals that if he wins, he will chart a more centrist economic course to combat rising poverty, 25% inflation, and dwindling foreign reserves. His advisers have hinted he would negotiate with U.S. hedge-funds Mrs. Kirchner has denounced as “vultures” after they held out from a settlement of Argentine sovereign debt.

The president hopes to retain her redoubt in Río Gallegos, the capital of Santa Cruz, 1,500 miles from Buenos Aires. It was here in 1987 that “Kirchnerismo” began when her husband was elected mayor. He became governor of Santa Cruz in 1991.

Now the president’s son, Máximo, is running for one of the province’s two seats to Argentina’s lower house. Until recently, the reticent 38-year-old shunned the spotlight and preferred sleepy Río Gallegos to cosmopolitan Buenos Aires. He is under investigation for alleged money-laundering linked to the Kirchner family’s hotel business in Patagonia, and his critics point out that serving in congress would provide immunity from prosecution. He couldn’t be reached for comment. The family has denied any crime was committed.

Alicia Kirchner, who is Néstor Kirchner’s sister and the Minister of Social Protection, is in a tight race for Santa Cruz governor against incumbent Daniel Peralta and opposition candidate Eduardo Costa, who is leading in the polls.

“If she loses Santa Cruz, it would be a blow to the heart of the Kirchner movement,” said Mr. Costa.

To fend off that outcome, Cristina Kirchner has traveled to Santa Cruz three times this month for appearances with her son and sister-in-law. One was a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a public swimming pool in Río Gallegos, an event Argentine television stations were ordered to broadcast live.

Pre-empting TV programming for official announcements is supposed to be reserved for “grave” or “exceptional” events, such as a coup d’état or weather emergency. But Fernando Torrillate, a spokesman for the government’s TV regulator, insisted the swimming pool’s inauguration met the “exceptional” standard.

In her speech, Cristina Kirchner recalled how her late husband never learned more than the dog paddle because the town lacked a public pool. Like other projects Mrs. Kirchner has rushed to inaugurate ahead of Sunday’s vote, the swimming pool isn’t yet finished. As construction workers with hammers and power saws worked at the pool site a few days after Mrs. Kirchner’s visit, Néstor Turri, who lives across the street, shook his head. “Cristina is a demagogue,” he said.

Calls to the presidency seeking comment weren’t returned.

What critics consider the Kirchners’ authoritarian political style was honed in Santa Cruz in the 1990s. As governor, Néstor Kirchner pushed lawmakers to change electoral rules so he could serve three terms and pressured the media for favorable coverage, said Milagros Pierini, a local human rights activist.

More than half of Santa Cruz’s workforce are government employees. “Here, the government is also your supervisor, your boss,” said Pablo Manuel, an editor at TiempoSur, a Río Gallegos newspaper.

Home to major petroleum and natural-gas deposits but just 350,000 people, Santa Cruz has long boasted the highest per-capita budget of any Argentine province. Mr. Kirchner used it to build schools and pave roads connecting far-flung oil towns, Atlantic ports and tourist resorts flanked by massive glaciers.

A tireless campaigner, he seemed to know everybody’s name. “Even as president, Néstor would call down here to ask about some old woman to find out how she was doing and to make sure we were taking care of her,” said Juan Carlos Batarev, a local Peronist official.

Mr. Kirchner was succeeded by his wife in 2007 and then died of a heart attack three years later. Since then, Santa Cruz has been rocked with corruption scandals, some involving real estate deals in which the Kirchners were allegedly implicated.

During a 150-day strike by municipal workers this year, trash piled up in Río Gallegos before being blown into surrounding pastures by the fierce Patagonian wind. The outskirts of town now look like a dump, prompting some residents to say it is time to change course.

But at the swimming pool event, where she shared the stage with candidates Alicia and Máximo Kirchner, Mrs. Kirchner implored voters to extend the family legacy.

“Our political project isn’t about last names,” she said. “It’s about Argentina.”

16. NEXT ARGENTINE LEADER HAS NO EASY ECONOMIC OPTIONS (The Wall Street Journal)
By Taos Turner
24 October 2015

BUENOS AIRES — After years of rampant government spending and rigid currency controls, Argentina is so short on dollars that whoever wins Sunday’s presidential election will have to pursue unpopular policies to keep the economy afloat.

Mired in a toxic mix of economic stagnation and one of the world’s highest inflation rates, Argentines have been ditching their pesos and seeking safety in the greenback. That puts them in competition with a government that is itself scrambling to retain and obtain dollars to make debt payments and pay for imports.

The incoming president, who takes office Dec. 10, will need to stanch the bleeding of the central bank’s foreign-currency reserves, which have fallen by almost half since 2011 to $27 billion.

“Life is not going to be easy for the next government,” said former Finance Minister Jose Luis Machinea.

The growing demand for greenbacks means the central bank is losing about $2 billion a month.

Around $11 billion in reserves are on short-term loan from China. An additional $3 billion is owed to bondholders and $8 billion are deposits from the local financial system. Meanwhile, importers say the bank owes them around $9 billion for goods that have been brought into the country.

Those claims could the bank’s holdings dangerously depleted. “By December that number will be around zero,” said Juan Luis Bour, chief economist at Argentine research firm FIEL.

A central-bank spokesman declined to comment.

In Argentine “caves,” as the black-market exchange houses are commonly called, the peso has weakened to 16 to the dollar, while the official rate has remained at 9.5 pesos. Departing President Cristina Kirchner has kept the official rate stable to contain inflation, estimated to reach 25% this year, but the policy has reduced competitiveness for exporters.

As the global commodities bust has spread, a recession in Brazil has compounded Argentina’s troubles. Brazil’s currency has weakened by about 32% this year, making it harder for Brazilians to buy Argentine exports.

The three leading candidates to succeed Mrs. Kirchner, including her preferred heir, Daniel Scioli of the ruling Front for Victory coalition, believe policies need correcting to rein in inflation and reduce a budget deficit surpassing 6% of gross domestic product.

Argentina’s economy boomed during Mrs. Kirchner’s first term, bolstered by high prices for the country’s soybean exports. Poverty and unemployment fell. But from 2011 to 2014, the economy shrank 3.1% in per capita terms, the most in Latin America, according to consultancy Orlando J Ferreres & Asociados.

The Kirchner administration has aggressively printed money and increased public spending by around 30% in annual terms. But continuing on that path would stoke further inflation, possibly forcing the next president to cut spending or raise taxes — unpopular policies that could infuriate Kirchner loyalists in Congress.

The International Monetary Fund expects Argentina’s economy to contract 0.7% next year, and analysts say inflation could jump to 35% if the government devalues the peso.

But economists say the next president will have no choice but to ease currency controls and settle a legal battle with U.S. hedge funds that has prevented Argentina from tapping global credit markets.

“None of the candidates can escape from this,” says Nicolas Dujovne, a former director of Argentina’s central bank.

Mr. Scioli, who is leading in the polls, has pledged to gradually tweak the economy. His rivals, the conservative mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, and Sergio Massa, a young dissident of the ruling Peronist movement, say they would quickly lift currency controls.

17. RUNOFF LIKELY IN ARGENTINA PRESIDENTIAL RACE (Voice of America)
October 26, 2015

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.

18. IN ARGENTINA, IT’S GOOD RIDDANCE TO KIRCHNERISM (Forbes)
By Kenneth Rapoza
October 25, 2015

The days of hardline Peronism, Cristina Kirchner-style, are over. As of Sunday, Oct. 25, Kirchnerism officially rides off into the sunset. And whatever replaces it today will be a significant improvement for Argentina. Once the Paris of the South, it has become the Venezuela of the Southern Cone of the Americas. Its Yankee-go-Home government managed to keep civil unrest in check, but destroyed the economy in the meantime. For this reason, nearly everyone with money at work in the country will be saying good riddance when the day is done.

“Regardless of Sunday’s presidential election result, the end of the Kirchner administration marks the beginning of significant changes in both external policy and domestic politics for Argentina,” say Barclays Capital researchers led by Pilar Tavella in New York.

Currently, Buenos Aires mayor Daniel Scioli holds a lead in the polls. He is no stranger to the Kirchner juggernaut. He was Cristina’s husband Nestor’s vice president between 2003 and 2007. He is a Peronist, but not as hard line as Kirchner, business leaders told FORBES during a trip to the city last year. Scioli is the candidate most likely to be elected president, either on Sunday or after a run-off vote on November 22.

If Sunday’s result is tight, there could be significant uncertainty on Monday morning.

A number of congressmen, governors, and mayors will also be elected. Should results be similar to the primary elections, the next Congress will be fragmented. There will also be changes in provincial leadership. Congress and governors will likely play a larger role in shaping politics and policies under the next administration.

It is uncertain how collaborative the outgoing administration will be up to the formal handover of power on December 10.

But, the need to boost central bank profits and jump start reserve accumulation, as well as the fact that Scioli seems to want Alejandro Vanoli to remain at the central bank, leads Barclays to believe an official devaluation of the peso to about 11.5 to the dollar is plausible. The official exchange rate now is 9.52. On the streets, known as the “Blue Market”, it sells for around 12 to 1.

19. ARGENTINA’S OSCAR ENTRY ‘THE CLAN’ SET FOR U.S. RELEASE (Variety)
By Dave McNary
Oct 23, 2015

Fox has set a Jan. 29 release date in the U.S. for the crime film “The Clan,” Argentina’s entry for the foreign-language category for the Academy Awards.

The film, directed by Pablo Trapero from his own script, will launch in New York and Los Angeles before expanding. Trapero won the Silver Lion Best Director Award at the Venice Film Festival.

“The Clan” has also been named as an official selection at the upcoming AFI Fest in November.

Producers are Hugo Sigman, Matías Mosteirín, Agustín Almodóvar, Pedro Almodóvar and Esther García — the same producing team behind last year’s “Wild Tales” — as well as Trapero.

The story centers on the Puccio family, which kidnapped four people in Buenos Aires in the 1980s and murdered three of them. The film set a weekend box office record in Argentina when it opened in mid-August.

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