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  • Documents are seen at a polling station during primary elections in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 11, 2019.

    Documents are seen at a polling station during primary elections in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 11, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 11 August 2019

Peronist candidate Fernandez, who has former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as his running mate, has promised access to free medicines for retirees and better wages for workers.

Argentinians went to polls Sunday for the country's primary elections as part of the high-stakes presidential race in which they must choose between maintaining neoliberal austerity or a return to progressive economics.

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The country's main political parties have already chosen their nominees, so the primary election, known locally as the PASO, serves as the first concrete measure of voter sentiment after a slew of opinion polls showed a narrow margin between President Mauricio Macri and main challenger Alberto Fernandez.

Macri is hoping some recent glimmers of economic revival are enough to encourage voters to stick with him despite the current recession and biting inflation. Argentina's country risk fell 20 basis points on Friday and local Merval index rose 7 percent.

For voters, sticking with him would mean seeing through painful cuts in public spending as part of the US$57 billion standby agreement he negotiated with the International Monetary Fund last year.

Peronist candidate Fernandez, who has former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as his running mate, has promised access to free medicines for retirees and better wages for workers while hammering Macri for the uptick in poverty and unemployment as the country grapples with recession and 55 percent inflation.​​​​​​​

"I don't think that in the face of another Macri triumph, things will improve. On the contrary, they will get worse," said Pablo Vazquez, 48, adding that he is worried about losing his job and has noticed more homeless people on the streets.

Investors, though, see Fernandez and Kirchner as a riskier prospect than sticking with free-markets advocate Macri.

In order to win the presidency outright in October, a candidate needs at least 45 percent of the vote or 40 percent and a difference of 10 percentage points over the second-place runner. If there's no clear winner, voters will return for a run-off on Nov. 24.

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