August 7, 2015 / 1:44 AM / 3 years ago

Argentina's Scioli woos swing voters before presidential primaries

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Daniel Scioli, the presidential candidate for Argentina’s ruling party, on Thursday urged undecided voters to back him in this weekend’s party primaries in a speech designed to reassure the party’s socialist faithful while wooing swing voters.

Daniel Scioli gestures during a ceremony at the Casa Rosada Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

Sunday’s primaries, in which Argentines can vote for any candidate from any party or alliance, are widely seen as a dummy run for the Oct. 25 poll. They will help show whether Scioli, who is ahead in polls, could win outright in the first round.

“I will maintain the policies that need maintaining, deepen those that need deepening and change those that need changing,” Scioli told thousands of banner-waving supporters as he closed the first stage of campaigning ahead of the primaries.

Scioli is seen as a moderate within Argentina’s broad Peronist movement and more investor-friendly than outgoing President Cristina Fernandez. But his running mate is a close Fernandez ally and in past weeks Scioli has defended the president’s heavy subsidies and controls on the economy.

Scioli saluted Argentina’s workers and trade unions and promised more roads, schools, hospitals and housing. He also rebuffed critics’ comments that Fernandez would retain a strong influence in Argentine politics if he won.

“You know what, I’m going to do it my way,” he said, promising to attract investment inflows that would lower Argentina’s runaway inflation.

For that to happen, economists say Argentina would need to strike a deal with the U.S. hedge funds whose legal battle with Fernandez over unpaid debt tipped Argentina back into default a year ago.

Both Scioli, 58, and his conservative rival, Mauricio Macri, have avoided the politically toxic subject of what an eventual deal with the so-called “holdout creditors” might look like.

Most opinion polls show Scioli, the governor of Argentina’s biggest province, with 35-38 percent of voter support while Macri, who is mayor of Buenos Aires, trails in the early 30s.

Macri promises change from Fernandez’ leftist policies, vowing to unwind Argentina’s web of trade and currency controls, lift hefty taxes on grains exports and restore relations with creditors.

In his closing rally ahead of Sunday’s primaries, Macri said pensions had been eroded by inflation under Fernandez and that rising crime stalked Argentines.

“We know we want a better public education system, more jobs and we will achieve this so that there is a better future for all Argentines,” Macri told supporters.

Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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