Argentina's senate has approved by a majority vote to advance the country's legislative elections by four months amid fears over the political impact of a deepening economic crisis, media reports say. The senate Thursday approved 42 to 26, to hold the election June 28 from the earlier date of October 25 after the Chamber of Deputies or the lower house approved the measure last week.
Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner, who took the opposition by surprise two weeks ago when she called for expedited elections, said the move was necessary to avoid the tensions of a long political campaign in the midst of a global economic crisis.
She argued at that time that it would be suicide to launch society, from now until October, into a permanent argument when the world is falling to pieces and the pieces can fall on us.
However, opposition leaders called the rescheduling as an attempt by the president and her Peronist supporters to get the elections out of the way before the full force of the economic crisis hits in the second half of the year eroding her influence further.
The Peronists, who control both houses of the Congress and has seen nearly a dozen lawmakers leaving, still face an uphill task and not just from the economic crisis. A bitter yearlong confrontation with agricultural producers has sent her approval ratings plunging from 55 percent after her election in December 2007 to 30 percent as of date.
To compound to her woes, the agricultural producers are on strike once again and have resumed blocking highways to protest a 35 percent export tax on soybeans and public anger over urban crime is likely to be a key issue in the elections.
Argentina grew at nearly nine percent a year between 2003 and 2007, but in recent months the economy has shown signs of stalling, closing the 2008 year with seven percent growth. The slide gathered momentum in January 2009 with a 36 percent drop in exports compared to the same month last year and with a 55 percent drop in auto production in February.
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