Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has swept to a landslide re-election in Argentina’s presidential election, winning more than 50 per cent of the vote with most ballots counted.
Kirchner, a centre-leftist who succeeded her late husband as president in 2007, had claimed 53 per cent of votes with 75 per cent of results returned, with her main rival, socialist candidate Hermes Binner, trailing far behind on 17 per cent.
No Argentine leader has won such a big share of the vote since General Juan Domingo Peron was elected for the third time with 62 per cent in 1973.
“If any one of us had said this was possible two years ago, they would have told us we were crazy,” a tearful and ebullient Kirchner, 58, told cheering fans from the balcony of the presidential palace. “You can count on me to go further with this project to improve the lives of 40 million Argentines.”
Argentina’s Kirchner’s road to re-election
The former senator may also regain the control of congress she lost in the 2009 mid-term election, with help from allies.
Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman, reporting from Buenos Aires, described the poll’s results as “historic”.
“There are tens of thousands of jubilant supporters here,” said Newman from the main square in front of the presidential palace.
Kirchner, while giving her victory speech, spent a lot of time paying homage to her husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner, who died a year ago, our correspondent said.
“There’s fireworks here. People are hitting drums, celebrating, chanting and singing. There are entire families here with children. There really is a party carnival atmosphere here,” she said.
In her speech to her supporters, Kirchner declared: “I’m the first woman to be re-elected president. I don’t want anything more.”
Kirchner also thanked a string of Latin American leaders, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, for their support.
Kirchner has been helped by an economy growing at about eight per cent per year and a weak field of opposition candidates.
Her policies have angered pro-market farmers and business leaders, but have the support of voters who benefit from generous welfare spending for poor families and the elderly.
“The first three years of her administration were characterised by very strong confrontations against parts of the middle class, the agricultural sector and the media,” Newman explained.
“But in the last year she has really softened her image and her speech. She is a far less aggressive. She has certainly won over a part of the middle class, as well as the poor in this country. And they are ecstatic here.”
The scale of Kirchner’s victory gives her a strong mandate to deepen the unconventional economic policies that play well with voters but irritate investors and farmers.
Generous social spending to expand pensions coverage and child welfare benefits have won her a loyal base of voters.
The sharp-tongued Kirchner has raised soy export taxes and kept quotas on wheat and corn shipments. Growers say such measures hurt investment in farming, Argentina’s top source of hard currency.