BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Tens of thousands of Argentines jammed streets in the capital and other cities Saturday to show support for conservative President Mauricio Macri, who is facing a tough fight heading into general elections in October in a country beset with economic struggles.
Chanting "We can be better" and "Let's go together," a crowd that greatly exceeded expectations swelled outside the presidential palace in Buenos Aires just two weeks after a left-leaning presidential ticket turned in a far stronger showing than Macri's slate in political party primary voting.
An emotional Macri emerged on a balcony of the Casa Rosada to acknowledge his supporters, who responded to calls on social media to get out in the streets.
"How are we not going to get ahead, with you? Please, we can. Of course, we can. We're going to be better," the president said, with tears in his eyes.
The outpouring by his backers underlined the division and polarization in Argentina, where many voters used the Aug. 11 primary elections to show support for Alberto Fernández and his vice presidential running mate, former President Cristina Fernández. The two Fernández, who are not related, got 47.6% of the total votes cast, while Macri's slate was 15 points back.
Many Argentines are upset with Macri, who won the last election after campaigning on promises to get the economy going again, but inflation still runs at more than 40% a year and the currency has slumped while austerity moves by his government have angered many people.
But others worry a victory by the Fernández team will bring back the populist policies that characterized the presidency of Cristina Fernández, in which Alberto Fernández served as her first chief of staff. After the primary elections, Argentine stock prices fell and the already weak peso dropped 35% in three days.
"Macri I give you 4 more years, Cristina we have given you enough," one banner proclaimed Saturday.
One protester, Cristina Rizo, said she doesn't want to see Cristina Fernández back in power. Macri's government "isn't perfect but I prefer that over Cristina," she said.
The demonstrations were encouraged on social media through influential groups that support Macri as well as cultural personalities such as actor Luis Brandoni, who recently broadcast a video in support of the government that went viral, and Oscar-winning film director, Juan José Campanella.
Despite the outpouring, many political analysts believe that unless something extraordinary happens, Macri will find it difficult to reverse the advantage held by the Fernández slate.
Associated Press writer Patricia Luna in Santiago, Chile, contributed to this report.