Argentina formally announced this week that elections for president and Congress would be held on October 28. A presidential run off between the two most voted candidates, if needed, is scheduled for November 25.
The latest public opinion polls show that either President Nestor Kirchner, or his charismatic wife, Senator Cristina Fernandez, could easily win the October challenge in the first round given their popularity plus the fact the opposition is atomized in several candidacies. To avoid a run off the winning presidential candidate needs 50% plus one of votes cast or a floor of 40% and ten points difference over the runner up. Since taking power in 2003, Kirchner has taken the country out of a deep recession and presided over a period of economic growth boosted by strong international demand for Argentina's commodities. He also strengthened the state's influence on the economy and sought close relations with Venezuela's populist President Hugo Chavez. For months there has been growing speculation that Kirchner could step aside for his wife, Senator Cristina Fernandez, to run in his place and according to Argentine political analysts the decision has already been taken, although it won't be officially announced until July. The First Lady has been traveling overseas in several trips with great public exposure meeting with leaders from Europe, Latinamerica and in United States with Democrat presidential candidates and members of the Jewish Council. In domestic affairs, Senator Fernandez with a long congressional experience, has become a very influential voice and efficient spokesperson but has also with great ability avoided being linked to all the controversial issues involving the Kirchner administration. Actually she represents a kind of "renovation" for the current highly centralized and exhausted Nestor Kirchner administration. Other hopefuls who have already confirmed their candidacy for president are Roberto Lavagna, Kirchner's former finance minister; Ricardo Lopez Murphy, conservative former Defense minister; Jorge Sobisch, conservative governor of the Neuquen province; and Elisa Carrio, a moderate politician who gave up her seat in parliament last month to focus on the election. Next October 28 half of the 257 members of the Lower House will be renewed and a third of the 72 Senators. All elected legislators and the next president will take office December 10.