Opposition's Fernandez Leads Macri in Tally: Argentina Update

Patrick Gillespie and Jorgelina do Rosario
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Opposition's Fernandez Leads Macri in Tally: Argentina Update

(Bloomberg) -- Opposition candidate Alberto Fernandez leads business-friendly incumbent Mauricio Macri by seven percentage points in Sunday’s Argentine presidential vote, the official count shows.

For an outright win, Fernandez, a left-leaning populist, needs 45% of votes, or at least 40% with a 10 percentage point lead over Macri. If not, the top two candidates will head to a runoff on Nov. 24.

The election comes against the backdrop of an economic and currency crisis, with voters concerned about the cost of living and access to social services. The government is seeking to renegotiate the terms of more than $100 billion in debt, and the chances of a sovereign default are rising.

Key Developments:

Turnout was higher than an August primary vote won by FernandezRead more: Fernandez Leads in Argentine Presidential Election, TN TV SaysRead more: The Man Who Would Be Argentina’s President Terrifies Investors

Waiting for the leaders to speak (10:17 p.m.)

Over an hour after the first official results were released -- with 88% of the votes now counted -- and neither Fernandez nor Macri have commented. This is somewhat unexpected at this point in the evening and perhaps reflects how the margin is tighter than forecast. Latest numbers show Fernandez ahead with almost 48% of the vote, vs 41% for Macri.

Third party candidates squeezed out in vote (9:48 p.m.)

Fernandez and Macri between them account for 89% of all votes. No space for third parties -- the other four candidates are nowhere near the action. The big question now is how the two of them react to these numbers. Will they use their support to try to find common ground in the legislature on the big issues Argentina has to face?

With 84% of the vote counted, Fernandez is sitting on 48% and Macri is still on 41%.

Official results put Fernandez ahead (9:03 p.m.)

The official count from the election commission shows Fernandez is ahead but the race is tighter than expected (and an improvement for Macri from an August primary, where the split was 16 percentage points). With 70% of the vote counted, Fernandez has 47% against Macri on 41%. That’s enough for him to win as long as he holds over 45%.

Vote count hits the legal threshold for release (8:38 p.m.)

Argentina’s electoral authority says at least 10% of votes have already been processed for the country’s top four districts, fulfilling a legal obligation set by a judge earlier Sunday. That means the official results can start to be released at 9 p.m. local time, as expected. Stay tuned.

Fernandez spotted toasting with close aides (8:25 p.m.)

TN TV network has aired images of Alberto Fernandez in his flat celebrating with close advisers after the close of ballots, showing them toasting with red wine and chanting against Macri. The opposition is struggling to hide the euphoria less than an hour before official results.

“All the exit polls indicate that Macri increased significantly, but Fernandez also grew, so a runoff seems highly unlikely at this stage,” says Jimena Blanco, political research director at consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft. Still, she says, the fact Macri appears to have mobilized more voters is a warning to Fernandez not to move too far to the left on policies.

Central Bank board to meet later Sunday (7:42 p.m.)

Argentina’s central bank board will meet later tonight once the election results are known, a person with knowledge of the matter tells Ignacio Olivera Doll. There’s been speculation that new economic measures will be announced before the market opens on Monday. The central bank’s reserves tumbled almost $4 billion last week, and while part of that is to pay government debt, long lines were visible on Friday outside some commercial bank branches in downtown Buenos Aires.

Voter turnout rises to more than 80% (7:21 p.m.)

About 81% of eligible voters cast ballots, according to a tweet by the electoral authority, an increase from the more than 75% who voted in an August primary, which was in essence a giant opinion poll before the actual election. That’s one of the conditions Macri needs to have a chance in this election: that voters who didn’t come out in August would do so now and support him. It’s similar to the first round turnout of the 2015 election and short of the record of almost 86% in the 1983 presidential vote.

Supporters gather outside Fernandez bunker (7:04 p.m.)

Hundreds have already congregated outside Fernandez’s campaign bunker in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Chacarita, waving flags and cheering on the street. TV networks show a vendor selling t-shirts featuring the opposition candidates for the equivalent of $5 each. More sober images are being shown of Macri’s campaign headquarters in Costanera, by the Plate river, where guests are slowly arriving.

Opposition says it improved from August primary (6:50 p.m.)

Fernandez adviser Santiago Cafiero tells reporters in Buenos Aires the opposition improved its performance from the August primary. Fernandez won the primary by a 16 percentage-point margin. Cafiero adds it’s premature to speak of a transition while the votes are being counted.

High economic stakes for the next leader (6:17 p.m.)

No matter who wins, the next leader faces daunting challenges and competing demands. With the economy in recession, Argentines have little appetite for more austerity.

Macri inherited an economy damaged by years of “Peronism” under left-wing predecessor Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is now Fernandez’s running mate. Peronism is a political movement that traditionally favored workers over business owners and its rhetoric is rooted in protest, anti-elitism and centered around national industry.

Macri enacted market-friendly reforms and enjoyed strong support from the U.S. But for many Argentines he failed to deliver on his promises. Inflation is over 50%, unemployment hovers above 10% and one in three live below the poverty line.

--With assistance from Carolina Millan, Daniel Cancel, Ignacio Olivera Doll, Scott Squires and Sydney Maki.

To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Gillespie in Buenos Aires at pgillespie29@bloomberg.net;Jorgelina do Rosario in Buenos Aires at jdorosario@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net;Juan Pablo Spinetto at jspinetto@bloomberg.net

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