Argentina shifted to the left on Sunday as Alberto Fernandez won the country’s presidential election amid broad discontent over austerity in Argentina’s crisis-stricken economy.
Fernandez obtained 47.8% of the vote against conservative incumbent Mauricio Macri’s 41.7%, according to preliminary results with more than 90% of the vote counted. Macri conceded defeat once it was clear his challenger cleared the 45% threshold to avoid a runoff.
Macri came to power in 2015 promising economic liberalization and growth. Instead, Argentina is in a deep recession, annual inflation stands at over 50% and a third of the population lives below the poverty line.
The economic crisis became more severe in 2018 when the peso lost about half its value, forcing Macri to strike a US$55 billion deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and impose a painful austerity program.
Many blame IMF-backed policies for leading to the country’s worst economic crisis in 2001 when the government defaulted on its debt following several years of depression.
Macri blamed Argentina’s economic problems on previous governments under Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who is now vice-president-elect and her late husband, Nestor Kirchner.
Fernandez, who served as chief of staff during Nestor Kirschner’s 2003-2007 presidency, has said the country would not default and suggested he would seek to “rework” Argentina’s standby agreement with the IMF.
The blowback against Macri comes as the region has been rocked by unrest in Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador fueled by discontent over corruption, inequality and slowing growth.