Presidency challenged by Buenos Aires mayoral vote

AP News
Posted: Jul 08, 2011 4:53 PM
Presidency challenged by Buenos Aires mayoral vote

Sunday's mayoral election in Argentina's capital pits a hand-picked supporter of President Cristina Fernandez against her leading opponent in a test case for her own re-election hopes in October.

Buenos Aires has been hostile territory during most of the eight years that Fernandez and her late husband have governed Argentina. The city also is a key political battleground ahead of the Oct. 23 presidential election, with its 2.4 million voters accounting for nearly 9 percent of the national vote.

Mayor Mauricio Macri, a center-right businessman who is enjoying 52 percent approval ratings in his first term leading the city, has a wide lead in opinion polls but isn't expected to win a clear majority in the first round and probably will go into a July 31 runoff.

In second place is Sen. Daniel Filmus, who was picked by the center-left Fernandez to make the mayoral run. Flanking Filmus on the left is film director Fernando "Pino" Solanas.

Macri would likely win a two-way race against Filmus, said Fabian Perechodnik of the Poliarquia polling firm, which does surveys for the opposition newspaper La Nacion.

The mayoral campaign has been largely bereft of fresh ideas.

Filmus, a former education minister whose political career progressed outside the rank-and-file of the governing branch of the Peronist party, can be seen on huge billboards above the motto "The city and the nation working together."

Macri, who benefited in his first election from his name recognition as president of the popular Boca Juniors football club, has become one of the president's most outspoken opponents.

Voters in Argentina's capital have repeatedly gone against the governing party since Nestor Kirchner was elected president in 2003. Kirchner stepped aside for Fernandez, his wife, in the last national election and had been expected to run again instead of Fernandez, but he died of a heart attack last October.

Fernandez has surged in the polls recently and now enjoys a 53 percent approval rating in the most recent Poliarquia poll. The survey of 800 voters had an error margin of 3.5 percentage points.

Buenos Aires voters tend to be less dependent on political patronage and government handouts than people elsewhere in Argentina, said Rosendo Fraga, an analyst at the New Majority consulting firm.

But Perechodnik, the pollster, said Fernandez is more popular now than ever before since she issued a series of decrees instituting such popular measures as child subsidies and more police officers patrolling the streets.