BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina's leading opposition candidate, Mauricio Macri, on Tuesday shrugged off concerns he would struggle to push through his reform agenda if he wins this month's leadership contest but fails as expected to secure a majority in Congress.
Macri said a majority of Argentines wanted change after two terms under leftist President Cristina Fernandez, blaming policy "inaction" for poverty levels he said had risen and a stagnant economy even though Fernandez had strong backing in parliament.
"Despite this federal government, we have governed this city, with all the complexities that come with a major metropolis," Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires, the capital, told a news conference. "Dynamic action will help us govern" at a national level.
Whoever wins the presidential race will be faced with resolving a decade-long battle with bondholders suing over unpaid debt that has shut Argentina out of foreign debt markets.
Macri trails the ruling party's candidate, Daniel Scioli, by about 10 points and could fail to force his opponent into a run-off vote in November. His support levels have dipped slightly in the run-up to the Oct. 25 vote, the latest opinion polls show.
Macri, the center-right candidate, who promises wholesale changes to open up Argentina's financial markets and lure back investors, has been hurt by corruption allegations against a close ally and a surge in backing for Sergio Massa who is running third in nearly all polls.
Macri said one survey on Tuesday that showed Massa had leap-frogged him into second place could not be trusted, and he expressed confidence he would force a second round.
Appearing drained and delivering a lackluster performance in a rare question-and-answer session with foreign journalists, Macri punted questions on the economy to advisers at his side.
The advisers stressed a key campaign pledge to remove capital controls from the get-go, saying that tough restrictions on access to dollars and a managed exchange rate were fueling the currency black market and hurting national productivity.
"Every day that Argentina fails to liberate itself from currency controls after Dec. 10 is a day lost in our quest for growth and job creation," said Rogelio Frigerio, referring to the date Argentina's next government will take office.
Macri's rivals say an immediate lifting of the controls will trigger a sharp devaluation and runaway inflation.
Fernandez's government, which has spent heavily on social welfare programs as well as energy and transport subsidies, says poverty rates in Argentina are lower than in Germany. Critics say her government manipulates national statistics.
(Reporting by Richard Lough and Nicolas Misculin; Editing by Leslie Adler)