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Boom times fuel Argentine president’s re-election
BUENOS AIRES (AP) — President Cristina Fernandez has been re-elected with one of the widest victory margins in Argentine history by persuading voters that she alone, even without her late powerbroker husband, is best able to keep spreading the wealth of an economic boom.
Mrs. Fernandez had nearly 54 percent of the votes cast in Sunday’s election, with nearly 97 percent of polling stations reporting nationwide. Her nearest challenger got just under 17 percent.
“We need everyone to comprehend … that because of the popular will and this political decision, you can count on me to continue deepening this national project for the 40 million Argentines,” she vowed in her victory speeches, first before hundreds and then thousands of supporters Sunday night.
The goal of this “project” is to change society profoundly by using Argentina‘s resources to raise incomes, create jobs, restore the country’s industrial capacity, reduce poverty and maintain an economic boom that has seen the country grow and reduce poverty.
Since she and her predecessor as president, husband Nestor Kirchner, first moved into Argentina‘s presidential palace in 2003, the income gap between the country’s rich and poor has been reduced by nearly half. Meanwhile, according to the International Monetary Fund’s numbers for 2002-2011, Argentina‘s real GDP has grown 94 percent, the fastest in the Western Hemisphere and about twice the rate of Brazil‘s, which also has grown substantially, economist Mark Weisbrot said.
U.S. President “Obama could take a lesson from this,” said Mr. Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. “It’s an old-fashioned message of democracy: You deliver what you promise and people vote for you. It’s kind of forgotten here in the U.S.”
Mrs. Fernandez noted that she is Latin America’s first woman to be re-elected as president, but she described the victory as bittersweet, since Kirchner, who died of a heart attack last Oct. 27, wasn’t there to share it.
“This man who transformed Argentina led us all and gave everything he had and more,” she said. “Without him, without his valor and courage, it would have been impossible to get to this point.”
Thousands of jubilant, flag-waving people crowded into the capital’s historic Plaza de Mayo to watch on a huge TV screen as she spoke from a downtown hotel, where her supporters interrupted so frequently with their chants that she lectured them as a mother would her children: “The worst that people can be is small. In history, you always must be bigger still — more generous, more thoughtful, more thankful.”
Then, she showed her teeth, vowing to protect Argentina from outside threats or special interests.
“This woman isn’t moved by any interest. The only thing that moves her is profound love for the country. Of that I’m responsible,” Mrs. Fernandez said.
Later, she appeared in the plaza as well, giving a rousing, second victory speech, her amplified voice echoing through the capital as she called on Argentina‘s youth to dedicate themselves to social projects nationwide.
Her 36-point-plus lead over Gov. Hermes Binner, who finished second, was wider than any in history save the 1973 victory of her strongman hero, Juan Domingo Peron — if you count, as many Peronists do, both the 30-point margin he won on the Peronist ticket with his wife, Isabel, and an additional 7 percent Peron won on a second ticket with a different vice presidential candidate, said Leandro Morganfield, a historian at the University of Buenos Aires.
Mrs. Fernandez’s political coalition also appeared to gain strength in Congress, where it will need to form new alliances to regain the control it lost in 2009. At play were 130 seats in the lower house and 24 in the Senate. Most of the nine governor’s races contested Sunday also went to her party.
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