The reelection of Argentina’s pro-business president, Mauricio Macri, appears to have been sabotaged by a tanking economy and the resurrection of one of the country’s most polarizing politicians.
With 88% of the ballots counted, authorities said Alberto Fernández, a lawyer and former chief of staff, won Sunday’s race with 47.8% of the vote versus Macri’s 40.8%.
Fernández needed to win at least 45% of the vote to avoid a runoff next month.
The election — on a day where Uruguayans and Colombians were also going to the polls — attracted international attention due to Fernandez’s running mate: former president and Latin American leftist icon Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Kirchner, who led the country from 2007-2015 and was a close ally of controversial leaders in Venezuela and Ecuador, has been hounded by corruption allegations but remains popular with many of Argentina’s poorest.
Fernández, 60, has portrayed himself as a reformer and a moderate and is seen by many voters as as their best chance to escape an economic recession, inflation that hit 53% in September and a crumbling peso that has decimated many people’s savings.
Analysts say Fernández will be forced to work with his rivals and the international community if he hopes to salvage the economy.
“Now is the time for us to all work together and build that Argentina that we dream about,” Fernández wrote on Twitter before the results were announced. “Argentina is for every one.”
In neighboring Uruguay, exit polls showed Daniel Martínez, the former mayor of Montevideo and a member of the ruling Popular Front party, was leading the race but will likely have to face a Nov. 24 runoff against National Party candidate Luis Lacalle Pou.
Local polling firms said Martínez had won between 38% and 39% of the vote — about 10 points ahead of Lacalle Pou. However, the runner-up is expected to win the backing of some of the other opposition candidates that participated in the race, representing a real challenge to the ruling party, which has been in power for 15 years.
History in the Making in Colombia
In Colombia, voters made history by electing the capital’s first female, openly gay mayor, Claudia López of the Green Alliance Party. According to preliminary results, López, a senator and former presidential candidate, narrowly beat out former senator and city council member Carlos Fernando Galán of the Bogotá for the People party.
In Colombia’s second city, Medellin, community activist Daniel Quintero, an independent, beat out Alfredo Ramos, the head of the ruling Democratic Center party, who was heavily favored in many polls.
The results were seen as a blow to President Iván Duque and his political mentor Alvaro Uribe who were hoping to use the local elections to bolster their Democratic Center party. But it was also seen as a rebuke of leftist power broker Gustavo Petro, and his Colombia Humana party, who also failed to make significant gains.
The elections in South America come amid unprecedented turmoil in the region.
On Saturday, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera sacked his entire cabinet and said he would reduce utility rates as he tries to appease protesters who have held some of the largest anti-government demonstrations since Chile returned to democracy in 1990. So far the offer hasn’t been working, and there are now calls for a national strike on Wednesday.
And in Bolivia, Evo Morales is resisting calls to hold a recount of the Oct. 20 election that he says handed him his fourth term but his opponent says was stolen.
On Sunday, the U.S. Department of State said it was “deeply concerned over the irregularities in the vote counting process” and called for a recount or, as the Organization of American States has recommended, holding a runoff election.