BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – First lady Cristina Fernandez claimed victory in Argentina’s presidential election Sunday, with early results and exit polls suggesting she had avoided a runoff and become the first woman elected to the post.
Fernandez’s husband, President Nestor Kirchner, is credited with Argentina’s rebound from a 2001 economic collapse, and much of her support is due to his popularity.
She has been compared to U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who like her is a lawyer and senator who soldiered alongside a husband as he rose from small-state governor to his nation’s presidency.
“We have won amply,” she proclaimed. “But this, far from putting us in a position of privilege, puts us instead in a position of greater responsibilities and obligations.”
Her challengers were trying to force her into a Nov. 25 runoff. She needed 40 percent of the vote, with a lead of more than 10 percent over her nearest rival, to win outright.
Of the first 10 percent of polling places reporting, Fernandez had 42 percent of the vote, compared with 21 percent for former Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna and 18 percent for Elisa Carrio. Eleven others split the rest.
But no opposition candidates conceded defeat, and Carrio spokesman Matias Mendez said seven parties had filed a complaint alleging that ballots were missing or stolen in Buenos Aires province, the country’s most populous.
Electoral officials denied any irregularities, but a judge extended voting by an hour in the capital after many of Argentina’s 12,700 polling stations opened late.
The next president, who begins a four-year term on Dec. 10, faces challenges including high inflation, an energy shortage and rampant crime.