Argentina’s voters set the stage for a bruising presidential run-off next month after a surprise first round on Sunday in which Daniel Scioli – the candidate of the ruling Peronist coalition – was denied an outright victory. The centre-left candidate, who was endorsed by outgoing president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, was tipped by the exit polls to end the night with a comfortable lead. But preliminary results showed both he and the pro-business Buenos Aires mayor, Mauricio Macri, were neck and neck on 35% each.
A large share of the vote was still to be counted in the capital, Buenos Aires, but it seems certain that neither man secured the necessary support to win outright, so they must now go head-to-head on 22 November.
The key to the final outcome is likely to be which of them can pick up the most support from third-placed Sergio Massa, a dissident Peronist, who won 21%.
Until the result, Scioli – a former racing boat champion – was the clear favourite, but the result was a disappointment to supporters. They had hoped a strong mandate would help them resist calls for drastic changes to Kirchner’s leftwing policies that have been popular with the public, but left the economy with a host of problems.