Opposition coalition holds narrow lead in Argentine legislative vote

Buenos Aires, Nov 14 (EFE).- The polls closed at 6 pm in Argentina’s legislative elections on Sunday, in which voters were called to the polls to renew half the seats in the Chamber of Deputies and one third of the seats in the Senate.

According to early provisional tallies in the vote count, the Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change) coalition is leading the governing Frente de Todos (Everyone’s Front) by narrow margins in the decisive province of Buenos Aires.

The Juntos por el Cambio has garnered just over 40 percent of the vote with 76.44 percent of the ballots provisionally counted, with Frente de Todos receiving 38.41 percent of the votes, followed by other opposition groups.

With regard to other important districts, where the vote count it well under way, in Cordoba province, the opposition coalition is reportedly leading with 54.05 percent of the votes, in Santa Fe with 40.4 percent and in the city of Buenos Aires with just under 47 percent.

Some 34.3 million voters were eligible to select 127 members of the lower house for four-year terms, while in eight of the country’s provinces they could vote for a total of 24 senators for six-year terms.

According to figures released by the National Election Chamber, as of 5 pm 64.5 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots.

After the closure of the polls, Interior Minister Eduardo de Pedro told media outlets that election day transpired “completely normally,” adding that voter turnout of 71-72 percent was expected.

The Argentina government, which is responsible for the provisional vote count, had said that figures would begin to be released at 9 pm on Sunday.

A more flexible regimen was in place for Sunday’s vote than the one that was implemented during the primaries last September due to the progress made to date in vaccinating the public against Covid-19 and an improvement in the overall epidemiological situation.

These elections, which are obligatory for voters between the ages of 18 and 69, are the first that President Alberto Fernandez has had to face since he came to power in late 2019.

The results will set the balance of power in Parliament for the next several years.

In the September primaries, during which the candidates for deputies and senators were selected, the opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition obtained more than 40 percent of the votes nationwide, while the governing Frente de Todos group garnered only a little more than 30 percent.

In those primaries, the ruling party lost support in almost all districts, including the province of Buenos Aires, its main electoral stronghold.

If those results are repeated on Sunday, the governing forces would lose their quorum in the Senate and could see their presence in the lower chamber reduced to the same number of seats as are held by Juntos por el Cambio, or perhaps even fewer.

Four districts are key in the balloting since they are the most populous in the country, namely the provinces of Buenos Aires (with 37 percent of the national electorate), Cordoba (with 8.69 percent), Santa Fe (8.06 percent) and the Argentine capital itself (with 7.43 percent).

About 90,000 military and security personnel were deployed to protect the more than 100,000 precincts opened at more than 17,000 schools and other venues around the country, where polls began admitting voters at 8 am.

While awaiting the preliminary results, activists from the Frente de Todos have set up a “bunker” in a cultural center, along with staging assorted post-election events, in the capital’s Chacarita district, while Juntos por el Cambio have done so at the Costa Salguero convention center in Buenos Aires.

Argentina has been grappling with a severe economic crisis for several years, one that has been worsened by the coronavirus pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 116,000 in the South American country.

Meanwhile, the inflation rate in Argentina is over 50 percent, one of the highest in the world.

EFE vd/cjn/mmg/bp

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