Friday 9 December 2016

Argentina turns politics on its head with election of conservative leader

Richard Lough in Buenos Aires

Published 24/11/2015 | 02:30

Mauricio Macri (left), celebrates with his wife Juliana Awada and daughter Antonia after his victory in the Argentinian presidential election
Mauricio Macri (left), celebrates with his wife Juliana Awada and daughter Antonia after his victory in the Argentinian presidential election

Conservative challenger Mauricio Macri turned Argentine politics on its head on Sunday, kicking the ruling Peronist movement out of power with a promise to liberalise the ailing economy and end a culture of divisive politics.

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Mr Macri, the son of an Italian-born construction magnate, won the election by tapping into frustration over anaemic growth, high inflation and corruption, and will become only the third non-Peronist leader since the end of military rule in 1983.

The other two failed to finish their terms, however, a reminder of the difficulties that Peronist labour unions, state governors and opponents in Congress could cause Mr Macri if he is unable to get the economy growing quickly.

After an unpredictable campaign that pitted poorer Argentines grateful for generous welfare programmes against others exasperated with state shackles on the economy, Mr Macri will need to deliver on pro-business reforms without hurting the poor.

"We've been saying from Tierra del Fuego in the south to Jujuy in the north, that we have to build an Argentina with zero poverty, and that's what we're going to do together," Macri told his jubilant supporters on Sunday night.

Mr Macri defeated leftist ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli, as voters punished outgoing President Cristina Fernandez for her handling of the economy and her abrasive style of leadership.

The 56-year-old faces a number of economic challenges, as slow growth is driven by unsustainable spending, inflation is at well above 20pc and capital controls have backfired to leave foreign reserves at nine-year lows.

Irish Independent

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