Signs of elections were scarce in Buenos Aires, a day before President Cristina Kirchner was expected to win a crushing second term victory, helped by Argentina’s strong growth rate.
The 58-year-old centre-left leader has soared in opinion polls since the sudden death of her husband and ex-president Nestor Kirchner a year ago, drawing sympathy and support from pensioners to parents via social spending.
Her divided opponents have failed to convince voters that they can do more to reduce runaway inflation, while high world prices for the country’s farm exports have helped maintain spending, including on wage rises and transport subsidies.
“Despite the international crisis, we’re on a good path,” said 19-year-old Leo Garin, who plans to vote for Kirchner and her Justicialist Party of three-time former president Juan Peron and his populist wife Evita.
The famous couple appear on Kirchner’s campaign posters and flags along with Nestor, who is rapidly joining the Peronist legend.
Supporters of the Kirchners, often referred to as “K,” credit Nestor for pulling the country out of its dire 2001 financial collapse, echoed in Greece today, during his 2003-7 presidency.
Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo, reporting from Buenos Aires, said a number of factors will probably lead to Kirchner’s win on Sunday:
“There has been an economic boom, in a way because the government has been encouraging consumption,” she said.
“A great increase in public spending in the past year… and the fact that there is a very weak and divided opposition which cannot compete with what Cristina Kirchner calls her ‘vision for Argentina’ is what will probably get her re-elected.”
Many Argentines see Kirchnerism as the safest bet for the economy amid uncertainty in Europe and the United States.
An outpouring of public sympathy for Kirchner, who still dresses in black, also boosted her popularity after a dip following a major dispute with farmers over raising taxes on key soya exports in 2008, which she lost.
“Cristina is an efficient, intelligent woman,” said 73-year-old pensioner Lauriano Rojas, in a Buenos Aires cafe.
Low interest in the campaign was explained by Kirchner’s path to likely victory without a runoff, for which she needs 45 per cent of the vote or 40 plus a 10-point lead.
The glamorous widow, with long auburn hair and trademark heavy make up, already won 50 per cent in national primaries in August and the last opinion polls predicted she would win slightly more on Sunday.
She also hopes to win back the lower house, where half the seats are being disputed, as well as to increase a small Senate majority, where a third of the seats are at play.
Middle class crunch
Amid average growth of around eight per cent since 2003, many have overlooked the simultaneous massive enrichment of the Kirchners, according to their own declarations.
Officials also say unemployment is down and poverty has dropped to 8.3 per cent from worrying levels at the end of the 1990s.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent said the effect of the economic crisis in 2001 was that Argentina was left isolated from the rest of the world.
“Argentina has been growing steadily in the last year, thanks to the high prices of commodities. The government has said that the economy is strong but Argentina still has problems of its own. Among them, one of the highest inflation rates in the world, very high public spending and capital flight.”
But many of the middle class still plan protest votes Sunday, saying they have only lost out in recent years.
“The middle class is suffering. There are lots of taxes and prices go up every week,” said 40-year-old Gabriela Rios, a jewellery seller in San Telmo, where tango dancers perform for tourists on cobbled streets.
The government insists that inflation is only 10 per cent and fines economists who publish their own estimates, most of which are more than double the official figure.
Almost 29 million Argentines are eligible to vote Sunday, with socialist Hermes Binner predicted to come in second, 35 to 40 points below Kirchner.