UPDATE: 1:30 a.m. EDT – Mauricio Macri, the pro-business mayor of Buenos Aires, stumped Argentina’s ruling party with an unexpected strong showing in the presidential election Sunday. The conservative opposition candidate reportedly forced a runoff vote next month after both presidential candidates failed to achieve enough votes, according to preliminary results.
The Nov. 22 runoff will be the first time an election in the country will be decided by a second round, BBC reported. Center-left candidate Daniel Scioli, supported by outgoing leftist President Cristina Fernandez and her Front for Victory party, had a major lead in pre-election opinion polls and Scioli's supporters had hoped for an outright victory.
However, results from 86 percent of the votes showed Scioli had 35.9 percent support, only slightly ahead of Macri’s 35.2 percent. To avoid a second round of voting, a candidate needs 45 percent support, or 40 percent with a 10 percentage point lead over the closest rival.
"What happened today will change politics in this country," Macri reportedly told supporters.
UPDATE 7:30 p.m. EDT: Exit polls indicate Daniel Scioli has a wide lead in Sunday's presidential election in Argentina, Reuters reported, but he still will face a runoff. "There will be a runoff according to our data based on exit polls," said Marcos Pena, the chief campaign strategist for pro-business opposition candidate Mauricio Macri.
Argentines are going to the polls Sunday to vote for the next president of a country struggling with slow growth, debt and crime. The election marks the end of the reign of the Kirchners, the husband-wife duo who led the nation for 12 years.
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner succeeded her now-deceased husband, Nestor Kirchner, in 2007, winning two consecutive terms as president. As stipulated by Argentine law, she was barred from running for a third term in this year's election.
Fernandez chose former Vice President Daniel Scioli as the successor for her left-wing Justicialist Party, and Scioli was leading in the polls as of Sunday morning. The center-right Buenos Aires mayor, Mauricio Macri, was expected to pose a challenge to Scioli, garnering votes from citizens who want a more stark change from the Kirchner clan and have lost faith in the effectiveness of their economic policies.
Elections are also being conducted for 24 of the country’s 72 senators and 130 of its 257 deputies.
Sunday marks the first round of voting, and the presidential election is expected to require a runoff, set for Nov. 22. To win outright, a presidential candidate would need either 45 percent of the votes or at least 40 percent of them coupled with a 10-percentage-point lead over his or her closest rival.
The division between Scioli and Macri is stark. “If Scioli wins, this will be the most important political conflict of the next period, something that is already being insinuated,” Argentine political analyst Rosendo Fraga told the New York Times Sunday.
Results are anticipated around 9 p.m. local time (8 p.m. EDT). Voting is compulsory for eligible citizens, and observers expected to see at least an 81 percent turnout, the Guardian reported.
Election results can be found on the country’s official polling website, Direccion Nacional Electoral.