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Argentine President Fernandez pulls out of 2023 election

Published Apr 21, 2023 09:32AM ET Updated Apr 21, 2023 11:32AM ET
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© Reuters. Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (not pictured) hold a news conference, at the Foreign Ministry building Palacio San Martin in Buenos Aires, Argentina, January 28, 2023. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

By Lucila Sigal

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -Argentine President Alberto Fernandez will not run in the country's October general election, the center-left leader announced on Friday, throwing open a race to lead the Peronist coalition at the ballot amid swirling economic crisis.

In a video message, Fernandez, who came into office in late 2019, said he would "hand over the presidential sash to whomever has been legitimately elected at the polls by the popular vote" and not seek a second term in office.

The Peronists, Argentina's foremost political power, are reeling in opinion polls with inflation running at over 100% and dwindling dollar reserves, with infighting between factions over who should be its main presidential candidate.

"The economic context put too much pressure on him," said Mariel Fornoni, director of Management & Fit, adding "internal pressures" had forced his hand, though in reality with his approval rating under 20% he never had much chance of winning.

"Alberto Fernández is taking himself out of a race he was never really in."

Pressure had been building for a decision from the leftist wing commanded by powerful Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who served as president from 2007-2015 and has at times been at loggerheads with Fernandez, no relation.

The move, which could boost the Peronists' chance of winning the election according to pollsters, comes amid a deep economic crisis with soaring prices pushing up poverty to near 40%, hammering voters' earning and spending power.

"In principle, it could be seen positively as long as it helps reduce internal tensions in the ruling party," said Roberto Geretto economist of Fundcorp.

"On the negative side, with him becoming an outgoing president so early, it could make it difficult to manage until the end of the mandate."

Mauricio Macri, the leader of the main center-right opposition party and president from 2015 to 2019, said last month he would not run for presidency either. Vice President Fernandez de Kirchner has also ruled herself out.

On the streets of Buenos Aires, few were surprised.

"I think it was something that was expected since things aren't changing in Argentina and instead getting worse," said teacher Tamara Rodriguez, citing inflation, lagging salaries and the devaluation of the local peso against the dollar.

"We hope that something better will come next."

Argentine President Fernandez pulls out of 2023 election

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