Leftists savour victory in Argentina's presidential race

Fernandez secures more than the 45% of the vote needed to win, beating conservative incumbent Mauricio Macri

Photo: EPA President-elect of Argentina Alberto Fernandez celebrates with his supporters after winning the first round of the Argentine general election, in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Argentines on Sunday entrusted leftists to steer the nation as it reels from a deep recession, electing as president Alberto Fernandez, giving him more than the needed 45% of the vote, or 40% and a 10-point lead over the second-place contestant - conservative incumbent Mauricio Macri. 

Yet, just hours later the central bank imposed significantly stricter controls on the purchase of US dollars underlining the scale of the economic challenge Fernandez now faces. 

According to results, the Peronist ticket of Alberto Fernandez and former populist president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner won a decisive victory over the incumbent Mauricio Macri, a conservative, in the highly-anticipated poll.  With more than 96% of ballots counted, the lawyer and former cabinet official had 48.03%, compared to Macri's 40.44%, according to the National Electoral Directorate. Macri had trailed behind his challenger in pre-election polls and was trounced by the opposition in primary elections in August, by 16 points. 

Speaking to supporters at his party's headquarters, Fernandez thanked voters for showing a commitment to building a more equal Argentina. 

"We're going to be the Argentina that we deserve because it's not true that we're condemned to this Argentina," he said. "We're going to enter the world with dignity. The government is back in the hands of the people!"

Fernandez officially assumes office on 10 December. He said he would meet with Macri Monday and that he will cooperate with him "in everything that Argentines need." 

But after the victory speeches, the central bank revealed that as of Monday, a maximum of $200 a month could be purchased via a bank account, or $100 in cash. That is down from the previously imposed limit of $10,000. The bank said the measures were an attempt to preserve the country's reserves, which have been depleting as it shores up the value of the Argentine peso. The announcement provided stark proof of the challenges facing Fernandez as he sets about trying to steady and revive the third largest economy in Latin America. 

In the meantime, he will be staring down the grim economic indicators that have been eating away at the third-largest economy in Latin America. Poverty is up 8 points in the last year, at more than 35 percent. Unemployment has grown, thousands of small businesses have shuttered and inflation, a chronic problem in Argentina, is expected to hit 55 percent by the end of the year.

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