With less than a week for the April 27 Argentine presidential election, the main public opinion polling companies in Buenos Aires don't dare a forecast since the four leading candidates are in a situation described as a technical draw, with none of them capable of attracting sufficient vote intention to definitively pierce through the 20% threshold.
What is clear is that two of the Peronist candidates, former president Carlos Menem and Santa Cruz governor Néstor Kirchner (supported by the current caretaker president Eduardo Duhalde) seem most poised for the run off on May 17, but the third Peronist candidate, former interim president and former governor Adolfo Rodríguez Sáa, even when declining and still holding seriously threatened by non-Peronist Liberal economist Ricardo López Murphy, the only presidential hopeful who has consistently been growing for over a month. "His public opinion poll record indicates a constant sustained evolution, the question is how far will he reach and whose electorate is he biting into", said Mr. Hugo Haime one of the pollsters consulted by the Buenos Aires press. However "bulldog" López Murphy has a limited horizon because his candidacy has grown in the major cities, but in the low income brackets, --60% of the Argentine electorate--, his penetration has been minimal. "Although 60% of those polled said they are willing to change their vote, with just a week before voting day, Mr. López Murphy penetration in the lowest income bracket is 5,6%; in the medium lowest 13%; middle class 19% and high income bracket 34%, so we have to be cautious about this advance", indicated Mr. Haim and Ms. Analía del Franco from Research International Analogies. Besides, the high income bracket only represents 10% of the Argentine electorate. For Mr. Julio Aurelio, who was the first to detect the López Murphy advance over a month ago "Mr. Menem and Mr. López Murphy would make it to the run-off, today. But there's nothing definitive, percentages are constantly on the move and the whole situation is most fluid". However for Cattenberg & Associates Mr. Menem leads followed closely in a four points range by Mr. Kirchner and Mr. López Murphy. Different polls from Ms. Analía del Franco and Mr. Haime coincide that the run off will be between Mr. Menem and Mr. Kirchner who are almost tied with the same percentages, 18,5% and 18,1%, and 19,4% and 19,2%. Ipsos Mora y Araujo have Mr. Menem leading with 18,3%, followed by Mr. Kirchner 16,8% and Enrique Zuleta Puceiro show Mr. Kirchner ahead with 20,2% and Mr. Menem with 18,5%. Graciela RÃÃ‚Â¶mer also believes that the run off will be between Mr. Menem and Mr. Kirchner and together with Ipsos Mora y Araujo and Enrique Zuleta Puceiro have Mr. López Murphy as runner up. Nevertheless all pollsters coincide that the race is too tight and exceedingly volatile as to anticipate a forecast. Less than a year ago Ms. Elisa Carrió was comfortably leading the opinion polls and now has virtually dropped to a distant fifth place. No candidate has managed in the opinion polls to hold vote intention over 20% for a week. With so much uncertainty mo wonder Argentine newspapers have also consulted local astrologists, who mostly seem inclined for a Menem victory. "Stars are lined up in such a way that they will favor those born under the Zodiac sign of Cancer (Mr. Menem). It's not the best moment for those under Leo (Mr. López Murphy and Mr. Rodríguez Sáa) or those from the sign of Pisces (Mr. Kirchner)", seems to be the prevalent opinion among Buenos Aires mentalists.
Who will receiver the presidential sash? If the Argentine presidential election this coming Sunday is as contested as anticipated by opinion polls, and a run off is needed May 18, it's not completely certain that caretaker president Eduardo Duhalde will be handing the presidential sash to his elected successor on May 25 as current legislation anticipates. Federal Judge Manuel Humberto Blanco, responsible for the definitive polling results in Argentina's greatest electoral circumscription, the province of Buenos Aires with 35% of the roll equivalent to 9,4 million voters, believes there won't be enough time to check and certify election returns, which could then force the Legislative Assembly to name an interim caretaker for the Executive because president Duhalde must leave office May 25. Once the final results are confirmed by the Judicial and Legislative branch, the new president takes office. However the legal procedure demands that 48 hours must elapse since polling day before ballot boxes are opened to check election results. "This means ballot boxes will be opened May 20 and we have four days to complete the job. The number of voting posts in the province of Buenos Aires is 25,547 and if any of the two candidates contests results, because it could turn out to be a very tight race, we will have to recount votes that is a long, demanding task", anticipated Judge Blanco. "We'll do our best, but time could be short. On May 24 all election results must be completed and certified, since the maximum electoral authority, Judge María Servini de Cubría must then remit them to the Legislative Assembly that will proceed to proclaim the elected president in time for the May 25 official ceremony", explained Judge Blanco. According to the Buenos Aires press, Congressional presidents of the Senate and House of Representatives in private admit that a situation could emerge where an interim caretaker president has to be nominated until the final election results become officially definitive. Last November when the acephali bill was reformed and the new electoral timetable agreed, president Duhalde included his resignation dated May 25 to ensure the transparency of the process and to abate critics who claimed he was planning to extend his mandate. Actually Mr. Duhalde as caretaker president was entitled to complete his predecessor's four year mandate, that is December 2003, but mounting public opinion dissatisfaction with the political system and a worsening financial situation in mid 2002 forced him to advance presidential elections. Mr. Duhalde was nominated caretaker president by the Legislative Assembly January 2002 following December 2001 street rioting and killings that forced the voluntary exit of elected president Fernando De la Rúa. Judge Blanco has overseen Argentine federal elections in the province of Buenos Aires in 1989,1995 and 1999; provincial elections in 1987, 1991, 1995 and 1999; two plebiscites and two constitutional assemblies.