Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri will have to face a run-off in his re-election bid after falling short of a majority Sunday.
The conservative first-term mayor led with nearly 47 percent of the vote. Second, at nearly 28 percent, was populist President Cristina Fernandez's hand-picked candidate, Sen. Daniel Filmus. Leftist filmmaker Fernando "Pino" Solanas got nearly 13 percent and several others split the rest with 95 percent of the votes counted.
The vote clears the field for a straight-on contest July 31 between the president's model of governing and the alternative that Macri, one of her most prominent opponents, has provided for the capital.
Macri called for unity in his victory speech, but defiantly warned the national government that "this free city won't be traded or sold" for political gain.
"If we deserve something, it's not because we went down on our knees, but because we put forth our ideas with our heads held high and with dignity," Macri said.
Macri had considered running for president in this October national elections, but ultimately chose the safer challenge with Fernandez's popularity increasing in recent months.
She then chose the leftist Filmus to run against Macri and involved herself so personally in the campaign that the race became mostly about whether voters wanted to bring her populist model of governing into the capital's city hall.
Filmus declared Sunday's result "a triumph." He urged voters to form a new majority in the second round that would politically unify the city and country, and make Buenos Aires once again "not only the richest city, but the most just."
Buenos Aires' 2.4 million voters represent nearly 9 percent of Argentina's voting population.
Filmus served as education secretary under President Nestor Kirchner, Fernandez's late husband and predecessor, but came up outside the rank-and-file of the Kirchners' wing of the Peronist party.
Macri is a civil engineer who jumped into politics after being president of the popular Boca Juniors football club.
"Macri will make the city more secure, more efficient," businessman Marcero Mitre, 57, said after casting his ballot. "I always vote for the conservatives."
Other voters said Buenos Aires could get more resources if the national and capital governments worked together.
"It will improve the budget," said Gracia Trinidad, a 31-year-old computer programmer who said she voted for Filmus even though she was "not exactly excited" about the choice.
She appeared to be among the many Argentines who expect Fernandez to be re-elected in the presidential election Oct. 23. "Cristina is going to win. It's not like she has much competition," Trinidad said.
Voters also chose half of the city's legislature, and for the first time elected local representatives for each of the city's 105 neighborhoods.