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Kirchner wins re-election in Argentina: exit polls

25 october 2011, 11:48
President Cristina Kirchner scored a resounding re-election victory in Argentina Sunday, winning a second four-year term by a huge margin over her closest rival, AFP reports.

Supporters gathered in front of the pink presidential palace in Buenos Aires waving blue and white flags and letting off fireworks as the main TV channels announced a "landslide" win for the center-left incumbent.

Exit polls carried by local media showed Kirchner may have won as much as 55 percent of the vote, which would give her the strongest mandate for an Argentine president since the end of the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

The figure would also signify a record lead over her closest rival, Socialist candidate Hermes Binner, reports said.

Three other candidates, including ex-president Eduardo Duhalde, conceded defeat and congratulated Kirchner before the first results were due at 9:00 pm (0000 GMT).

The 58-year-old incumbent -- buoyed by strong economic growth and sympathy almost a year after the death of her husband, former president Nestor Kirchner -- had been expected to secure re-election against a fractured opposition.

The South American nation of 40 million has enjoyed strong growth, more jobs and rising pensions, as well as highly popular child support programs since Nestor Kirchner started a four-year term in 2003.

"He must be very happy that people are voting, wherever he is," Kirchner said, dressed in her traditional black, after voting in Rio Gallegos, Patagonia, 1,600 miles (2,600 kilometers) south of Buenos Aires.

Glamorous and known for her sharp tongue, Kirchner has made gains in recent months with a more consensual style than her husband, making efforts to improve relations with key sectors like industry and agriculture.

She needs just 40 percent to win if her nearest rival is more than 10 points behind, or 45 percent for an outright win.

The center-left politician also hopes to win back control of the Congress, where 130 lower house seats and 24 senate seats are at play.

Nestor Kirchner was credited with lifting the country out of its financial meltdown of 2001 by restructuring massive debts and promoting spending.

Cristina Kirchner has pushed forward with popular social programs as well as subsidies for transport and utilities, and dismissed unofficial figures of rampant inflation.

Kirchnerism belongs to the diverse and powerful Peronist movement of three-time former president Juan Peron and his populist second wife Evita.

Many Argentines see Kirchner's policies as the safest bet for the economy amid uncertainty in Europe and the United States.

"I think it's the best we've got. Human beings have a right for basic help from the government, like pensions," said 63-year-old teacher Monica Bietti, after she voted in a Buenos Aires school.

"I don't think the other candidates would dare to stand up to the world over debts or anything else."

Kirchner's divided opponents failed to convince voters they could do more to reduce runaway inflation -- which independent analysts estimate at almost 25 percent per year, more than double the official figures.

Binner has warned that Argentina, which relies heavily on exports to Brazil and China, will soon feel the effects of the global crisis, as growth is expected to slow down next year.

In what many saw as the most predictable elections since the end of the dictatorship, most candidates focused on winning seats in Congress.

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