Buenos Aires, Oct 22 (EFE).- Millions of Argentinians flocked to polling stations on Sunday to choose a new president as the nation confronts its most severe economic crisis in decades, marked by soaring inflation, increasing poverty, and a depreciating currency.
Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. and were set to close 10 hours later.
Approximately 35.4 million eligible Argentinian voters can cast their ballots to elect the president, vice president, 130 of the 257 lawmakers, and 24 of the 72 senators.
The winner of the presidential race will succeed Peronist Alberto Fernández, who opted not to seek re-election.
The election has set the stage for a mainly three-way contest between the frontrunner, far-right libertarian Javier Milei, incumbent economy minister Sergio Massa, and center-right politician Patricia Bullrich.
The leading contender for the presidency is Milei, the leader of La Libertad Avanza.
Milei, who, until recently, was relatively unknown, is poised to secure the majority of the votes.
He emerged victorious in the August primary elections, defeating Argentina’s two major political forces—the Together for Change coalition and the country’s most prominent political movement, Peronism.
Pre-election predictions indicate that none of the candidates will secure enough votes to avoid a runoff in November, although Milei holds a slight but notable advantage.
To win outright, a candidate needs to secure 45 percent of the vote or 40 percent with a 10-point lead over the runner-up.
Argentina is celebrating four decades of democracy since the last military dictatorship (1976–1983).
However, the nation is mired in a severe socioeconomic crisis, characterized by year-on-year inflation reaching 138.3 percent in September.
An estimated 40 percent of the 46 million population lives in poverty, amid dwindling reserves and a rapidly depreciating currency.
The poll results are expected to be announced on Monday.
Additionally, thousands of Argentines voted in six cities in Spain, with the majority in Barcelona (47,044) and Madrid (34,196).
The Consul General of Argentina in Madrid, Daniel Plaza, told EFE that the voting process was proceeding normally.
“People have been highly mobilized and eager to make their voices heard,” said the consul, even though voting abroad is not obligatory.
For José, one of the Argentines who cast their votes, “voting is crucial for Argentina,” expressing concerns about the situation in his country. “We don’t seem to learn. That’s just how we are.”
Gustavo Petrucci, a resident of Madrid since 2009, said that Argentinians are seeking change. “We want Argentina to become a power” it once was. EFE