Argentine frontrunner calls for unity after presidential poll

Buenos Aires, Oct 28 (AFP/APP): Argentina’s leftist presidential frontrunner Alberto Fernandez vowed Sunday to end sharp divisions between his Peronist movement and supporters of the business-friendly incumbent Mauricio Macri, as the country seeks to emerge from a crippling economic crisis.

Exit polls put the 60-year-old lawyer, whose running mate is ex-president Cristina Kirchner, in the lead shortly after polling closed at 6:00 pm.

The interior ministry said turnout in Sunday’s general election was over 80 percent after a campaign dominated by the crippling economic crisis affecting Latin America’s second-biggest economy.

“The days of ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ are over,” the mustachioed leftist leader said after voting in the swanky Puerto Madera neighborhood of Buenos Aires. “We are in an enormous crisis. Everyone has to take responsibility for what’s ahead.”

Earlier, a relaxed Fernandez patiently waited in line to cast his ballot behind other voters, some of whom turned to embrace him.

Macri, who brought a bag of local “media-luna” pastries to staff at his polling station in the Palermo district, called on voters for a massive turnout, which analysts see as his main hope of closing the gap on Fernandez and forcing a second round.

Moderate Peronist Fernandez closes in on Argentine presidency

– ‘Visions of the Future’ –

Competing “visions of the future are at stake,” the president said, admitting that he was “anxiously waiting” for 9:00 pm (midnight GMT) to roll around, when the first results are expected.

The election comes amid high tensions in the region, with massive protests in neighboring Chile and Bolivia, as well as recent unrest over inequality in Ecuador.

Voter Maria Marta Rosauer, 54, said she would give Macri “another vote of confidence.”

“I voted with the conviction and the certainty that he did things well and that he could have done better, but he needed time,” she said.

“Nobody can put a country on its feet in four years, after how he found it. We opened our doors to the world after many years of being almost forgotten,” she said, referring to the years when Argentina was a market pariah following a 2001 default.

There are “two models of government at stake here. Alberto and Cristina represent greater equity,” said another voter, Liliana, a 64-year-old architect in the capital. “I’m excited to see the end of a country that only benefits a small group.”

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