Argentina’s Fernandez cries foul on government primary vote count

September 4, 2017

August, 30 2017 (Reuters)

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina’s former populist leader Cristina Fernandez criticized President Mauricio Macri’s government at a rally on Wednesday, after it took more than two weeks to release final results in a Senate primary race that gave her a razor-thin win.

Fernandez won the primary in Buenos Aires province, Argentina’s largest. She edged out President Mauricio Macri’s preferred candidate Esteban Bullrich 33.95 percent versus 33.74 percent.

Before announcing the final count late on Tuesday, the government had last published results in the province on Monday Aug. 14 with 95.68 percent of polling stations counted. At that time Bullrich, Macri’s former education minister, had a 0.08 percent lead over Fernandez.

“This is the first time that the person who won the provisional count did not win the definitive count,” Fernandez told thousands of cheering fans in La Plata, the capital of Buenos Aires province.

“The truth has triumphed over lies and manipulation,” she said, accusing Macri’s government of staging a show to celebrate the results after polls closed.

National Electoral Director Fernando Alvarez said Fernandez had won by just over 20,000 votes, or 0.2 percentage points, on Tuesday night. He said the count had taken place at a normal pace, though the vote was unusually close.

Markets were little changed on Wednesday, after the final count was known. Stocks had rallied while the peso strengthened after the Aug. 14 count as fears eased that Fernandez could aim for a presidential comeback in 2019 to reverse Macri’s economic reforms.

Fernandez was president from 2007 to 2015 and was indicted for corruption last year.

Under Argentina’s election system, the winning party in each Senate race gets two of the province’s three seats, with the remaining seat going to the second-place finisher.

A second-place finish in the Oct. 22 election would therefore still grant Fernandez, 64, a seat, which would give her immunity from arrest though not from trial. She has dismissed the corruption accusations as politically motivated.