[This article has been updated to include latest official results and add background/context]
Mauricio Macri (Cambiemos) was today elected to be Argentina’s next president in the country’s first ever second-round run off.
Macri defeated Daniel Scioli, the incumbent governor of Buenos Aires province and candidate for the ruling Frente para la Victoria (FpV).
With 98.9% of the vote counted, Macri had 51.4% support compared to Scioli’s 48.6%. Voter turnout was calculated at over 80%, with only a small amount of blank votes cast (1.2%).
In the first round of voting on 25th October, Scioli came in first with 37.1% while Macri received 34.2%.
Speaking at the NH Hotel in central Buenos Aires, Scioli accepted defeat shortly after 9.30pm, saying that he had called Macri to congratulate him on his victory. “We gave everything,” a conciliatory Scioli said to press. “The people have chosen an alternative option.”
At 10pm, Macri gave a victory speech to a packed audience in the Cambiemos bunker. “I don’t know how to describe what I’m feeling. Thank you all so much for believe that together we can build the Argentina of our dreams.”
The president elect called on all people to join what he called a “new era for Argentina”, saying that all energy must go to building a country with zero poverty and not revenge.
Macri ended his speech with the familiar phrase “It’s now, it’s here, let’s go Argentina!”, sparking wild celebrations among his supporters.
Macri will formally begin his four-year term on 10th December, receiving the presidential baton from the outgoing leader Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
The 56-year-old, a civil engineer and former president of Boca Juniors football club, will take over the country after 12 years of Kirchnerism (one term for Néstor Kirchner and two terms for Cristina Fernández).
Macri campaigned on the theme of change – his coalition ‘Cambiemos’ means “Let’s change!” – though has provided few clues as to how he will carry out the reforms he has promised.
With a background in business, Macri widely regarded as a “market-friendly” candidate eager to implement swift economic changes that would attract foreign investors to Argentina and unravel the current administration’s policies. However, he softened his rhetoric during the campaign, pledging to maintain social programmes like the Universal Child Allowance and keep recently nationalised companies YPF and Aerolíneas Argentinas in state hands.
During the campaign, Scioli repeatedly stated that Macri would represent a return to the 1990s, when the country was run by neo-liberal president Carlos Menem, an era that ended with the catastrophic 2001 default and crisis.
Scioli accused Macri of planning a major austerity programme and currency devaluation, which he said would hit most workers hard. Macri dismissed this as part of a ‘fear campaign’, promising to work to reduce poverty to zero.