BUENOS AIRES – The main Argentine media outlets on Sunday predicted that the governing Cambiemos party would chalk up significant wins in the day’s legislative elections, although the country’s biggest electoral district – Buenos Aires – presented a more nuanced picture.
The Todo Noticias television channel and the daily Clarin said that many Cambiemos candidates had won their elections around the country, although the release of exit polls is prohibited by law until three hours after the polls close, that is not until 9 pm local time.
The press reports indicate that in important electoral districts – such as Cordoba province and the capital – Cambiemos candidates received the most votes.
However, in Buenos Aires province, where 37 percent of the country’s voters live, it appears to be a tighter race between former President Cristina Fernandez, a Senate candidate for the Unidad Ciudadana front, and former Education Minister Esteban Bullrich, on the Cambiemos ticket.
Although the first official results are not expected until 9 pm, with updates every five minutes thereafter, preliminary reports are that 78 percent of the country’s eligible 33.1 million voters turned out to cast ballots on a calm election day that saw no significant incidents of any kind.
Argentine Interior Minister Adrian Perez said after the polls closed that the first results would be made public in the coming hours although he called for “patience” in awaiting election updates because the Argentine system “is a little slow.”
At play in the election are 127 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, half the total number, and 24 senators – one third the total.
These are the first legislative elections that the government of Mauricio Macri has faced almost two years after taking office, and public attention is focused primarily on the results in Buenos Airea province.
The winners in the lower house races will serve four-year terms, and the 24 newly elected senators from eight provinces will serve six-year terms.
“We think today will be a peaceful and normal election day all across the country. It’s very important that every citizen think about this and go out to vote,” Cabinet chief Marcos Peña said during a breakfast organized by the governing Cambiemos party.
Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, for his part, said Sunday “is a celebration of democracy” and people should “vote” to mark the occasion.
Officials deployed 106,000 security forces members across the country to protect polling places.
Heading into the election officials had expressed concern about bomb threats against election precincts but no incidents were reported on election day, although nearly 3,000 bomb threats against schools were received between Sept. 1 and Oct. 4, officials said.
The governing Cambiemos party expects to perform well in the legislative elections in the wake of the August primaries, in which it garnered about 35 percent of the vote, positioning itself as the country’s top minority party and winning votes in traditional Peronist Party strongholds.
The latest polls in Buenos Aires province showed Bullrich leading Fernandez, who won her primary battle by just 0.21 percent on the Unidad Ciudadana ticket.
Fernandez, who governed Argentina from 2007 to 2015, is expected to return to the Senate and continue to be one of the leading voices in the opposition.
Fernandez is the widow of Nestor Kirchner, who governed Argentina from 2003 to 2007.