BUENOS AIRES: Argentina’s presidential election is headed for a November 22 runoff between incumbent Cristina Kirchner’s chosen successor Daniel Scioli and conservative rival Mauricio Macri, partial results indicated Monday.
The two candidates were neck-and-neck with around 35 percent each, with just over 86 percent of polling stations reporting — though results were still pouring in from Scioli’s stronghold, Buenos Aires province, where he has served as governor for the past eight years.
Scioli, a 58-year-old power boating fanatic who lost his right arm in a 1989 racing accident, was considered the front-runner heading into the vote.
However Macri sounded a triumphant note over the early results that put them at near equal footing.
“What happened today changed the country’s politics,” Macri, the 56-year-old mayor of Buenos Aires, said in a euphoric speech to supporters before busting out his cumbia dance moves on stage.
“The challenges aren’t easy, but I have faith in myself,” he said.
Opinion polls had indicated Scioli was on the cusp of winning outright, but the race proved to be far closer than predicted.
The runoff will be the first ever in the South American country, which adopted a two-round presidential election system in 1973 but has never had a race go all the way to the second round.
Under Argentine electoral law, in order to win outright, 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.
Earlier, Scioli acknowledged the race was headed for a runoff as both sides awaited the official results.
“I call on all undecided and independent voters to bring a victory for all Argentines,” he said in a speech to thousands of supporters at his campaign headquarters.
“I’ll face this new phase with more faith than ever.”
Third-place candidate Sergio Massa won 21 percent of the vote.
A former Kirchner ally, Massa fell out with the president and launched a rival party, the Renewal Front, two years ago.