Argentines will have to choose from among 15 politicians, four of them from the Peronist party, in the April 27th presidential election.
Despite the variety of candidates, different voting polls have shown that none of them will win even 20 percent of the vote. In fact, surveys show that each candidate will receive a lower percentage of votes than the percentage of voters who will probably abstain or nullify their ballots.
The Peronist party will play the role of the ruling party and the opposition at the same time in the April 27th election, which will almost surely lead to a runoff scheduled for May 18th. This election will also be the first in 75 years in which only the presidency will be contested.
The deadline for candidates to register for the election ended at midnight on Saturday, and the last to sign up was lawyer Juan Arcagni, 38, who announced he will be running as the Renew Argentina Movement candidate.
The latest polls show lawyer Nestor Kirchner, a Peronist and governor of the southern province of Santa Cruz, leading with about 18 percent of the vote. Kirchner also has the support of Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde.
Peronist Adolfo Rodriguez Saa is also in the running. Rodriguez Saa, governor of the central province of San Luis for 18 years and interim president of Argentina for one week during the institutional crisis at the end of 2001, is currently second in the pre-election polls.
Former President Carlos Menem, also a Peronist and rival of Duhalde, is running for a third term as president. He led Argentina for two consecutive terms between 1989 and 1999.
The latest polls place Menem in third or fourth place with between 12 and 14 percent of the vote, yet slightly over 40 percent of those asked believe he will win the election.
The fourth Peronist candidate, textile impresario Ricardo Mussa, does not appear in any polls. He campaigned previously for a seat in the national Congress as well as for governor of the province of Buenos Aires, but he has never received more than 1,000 votes.
Legislator Elisa Carrio, who broke with the Radical Civic Union (UCR) party and gained popularity when she presided over an anti-mafia parliamentary commission, is also running for president as part of the center-left Alternative for a Republic of Equals (ARI) coalition.
Another former radical, Ricardo Lopez Murphy, who briefly served as economy minister, is running under the banner of the center-right Federal Re-creation Movement, while the Socialist Party, which at first supported Carrio, is now backing the candidacy of Alfredo Bravo, president of the Permanent Assembly on Human Rights.
The UCR, in the grip of a profound crisis since Fernando de la Rua resigned from the presidency in December 2001, is putting forward Leopoldo Moreau as its candidate, while the Christian Democracy party is backing Manuel Herrera, former head of the Argentine Industrial Union, the most important business federation in the country.
The left has not managed to iron out its differences and so presented four candidates: Communist Party lawmaker Patricia Walsh, daughter of journalist and author Rodolfo Walsh, who disappeared under the last military dictatorship; Jorge Altamira of the Worker's Party; Guillermo Sullings, of the Humanist Party and Jorge Mazitelli on behalf of the Authentic Socialist Party.
The list of those running in the presidential race is rounded out with lawyer and journalist Carlos Zaffore, of the Integration and Development Movement, the party that brought Arturo Frondizi to the presidency in 1958 and which was allied with the Peronists in several elections.