Conservative candidate Mauricio Macri’s strong showing in presidential vote has surprised many analysts.
Argentinians have voted in the country’s presidential runoff election, which could mark the end of outgoing President Cristina Kirchner’s domination of the country.
Kirchner’s preferred candidate, Daniel Scioli, was trying to hold off a challenge in Sunday’s ballot from right-winger Mauricio Macri, with polls published last week running the candidates neck and neck.
Al Jazeera’s Daniel Schweimler, reporting from Buenos Aires, said there was excitement in the air for the vote as it was the first time in the country’s history when the presidential elections went into a runoff and the result of it was not predictable.
“Two candidates are offering two very different models about how to tackle Argentina’s problems,” Schweimler said.
If Macri succeeds, he will end 12 years of centre-left rule in the country, dominated by Kirchner and her late husband, Nestor Kirchner.
“We need a change,” Carlos Mombru, a 72-year-old retired engineer whose two sons left Argentina in search of better work opportunities during Kirchner’s rule, told the Reuters news agency.
“This country doesn’t have an economic problem; it has a political problem,” he said, referring to Argentina’s rich hydrocarbon and metal resources, as well as its powerful grains industry.
Neither candidate achieved the 45 percent of votes needed to avoid a runoff in the first round of the elections held in October.
Scioli picked up 35 percent of the vote, with Macri a percentage point behind at 34 percent.
In a debate held last Sunday, neither candidate managed to take a definitive advantage, though observers said Macri was the more relaxed of the candidates.
Macri is promising a break from Kirchner’s leftist economic policy, promising a more business-friendly environment in the country, while Scioli is prioritising policies aimed at helping Argentina’s poorest.
Kirchner has ruled the country since taking over from Nestor in 2007, and has reached the end of her two-term limit.
Despite early fiscal success, Argentina’s economy has started to flounder, and whoever wins Sunday’s vote will expect to inherit a litany of financial problems.
The country is facing inflation and is involved in a legal battle against two American hedge funds that reject its plans to restructure the $100bn in debt it defaulted on in 2001.
The firms, which Kirchner condemns as “vulture funds”, successfully sued for full payment in US federal court. Kirchner’s refusal to pay them pushed Argentina into a new default last year.