BUENOS AIRES – Argentines are voting on Sunday in the party primaries that will determine who the candidates will be in the Oct. 27 presidential election.
“We are absolutely convinced that these are going to be the most transparent elections and vote count in the history” of Argentina, Cabinet chief Marcos Peña told reporters.
Peña spoke during the traditional election day press conference with reporters in Buenos Aires, where he had breakfast with leaders of the governing Juntos por el Cambio party.
Polling places across the South American country opened at 8:00 am and will close at 6:00 pm.
Some 33.8 million people are eligible to vote in the primaries, choosing among 10 different lists of candidates.
Nearly 90,000 soldiers and other security forces members have been deployed to protect the 100,185 election precincts set up at 14,546 schools around Argentina.
The primaries are being held amid arguments in recent days between the opposition and government over whether the election data transmission systems that will carry the vote tallies on Sunday night are reliable.
Peña said the simulations conducted by election officials “functioned very well,” adding that he was “confident” that “(we will) avoid that crazy situation that we’ve had so many times in Argentina of having to wait until 6:00 am to know the results.”
President Mauricio Macri, who is seeking re-election in the October general elections, said Sunday’s primaries would set the course for the next 30 years in Argentina.
“What happens in this election today is very important. It’s an election that expresses many things both inside and outside the country. This election will define the next 30 years in the history of our country,” Macri said after casting his ballot at the Wenceslao Posse public school in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires.
The 60-year-old Macri, who heads the ticket for Juntos por el Cambio, said the primaries “have started very well.”
“We believe in continuing the reforms, the deep change that is being experienced in Argentina, and others want other things,” said Macri, a former soccer executive.
In 2015, Macri defeated Peronist Party candidate Daniel Scioli in a runoff.
Peronist Party candidate Alberto Fernandez, for his part, said that he would call “on all Argentines” after the primaries to help solve the country’s “infinite problems.”
“For me, it’s a very important day because it’s a day when Argentines will decide the future and I think it’s very important that this happen,” Fernandez said after casting his ballot at the Universidad Catolica Argentina in the Puerto Madero district of the capital.
The main opposition candidate said he spoke on Sunday with running mate Sen. Cristina Fernandez, who governed Argentina from 2007 to 2015.
The Interior Ministry, which is responsible for counting the votes, said the first official results were expected around 9:00 pm.
The final certified vote count is expected to be released on Tuesday, officials said.
Candidates competing in the primaries, in which voting is mandatory for citizens between the ages of 18 and 70, must garner at least 1.5 percent of the vote to make it onto the ballot for the Oct. 27 general elections.
Argentina’s next president will be sworn in on Dec. 10 for a four-year term.
In addition to election the candidates who will compete in the general elections, voters will also select the candidates for congressional seats.
A total of 130 seats in the lower house of Congress and 24 Senate seats will be up for grabs in the October general elections.