Argentine midterm primary delivers political slap to leader Fernandez

Sun Aug 11, 2013 11:48pm EDT
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By Hugh Bronstein

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - A possible re-election bid by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez seemed less likely on Sunday after Buenos Aires province rejected her candidate in the midterm congressional primary, nominating instead a pro-business, small-town mayor.

The win by Sergio Massa - from the affluent suburb of Tigre, known for its picturesque canals - makes him a national figure and may set the stage for him to run for president in 2015.

Argentine bonds were expected to rise after Massa easily won his primary against a candidate hand-picked by left-wing nationalist Fernandez. Nationwide, her coalition clinched only 25 percent of the vote. Wall Street analysts had said anything less than 40 percent would boost Argentine asset prices.

Re-elected in 2011 on promises of increasing government's role in economy, Fernandez says she is not thinking about a possible third term. But talk persists that her supporters want the constitution amended to let her to run again.

Candidates for October legislative elections were chosen in Sunday's primary vote.

"If October replicates this primary result, forget about re-election," said Ignacio Labaqui, an analyst for emerging markets consultancy Medley Global Advisors.

With no competition among candidates on the lists offered by most parties in the primary, and with voters allowed to split the ticket among their choices for the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, the primary served as a mega-opinion poll on Fernandez's interventionist economic policies.

With 42 percent of the vote counted, Massa led Fernandez's candidate, Martin Insaurralde, by 6 percentage points.   Continued...

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner gestures as she speaks after the first results of the Congressional primary elections in Buenos Aires August 11, 2013. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci