Fernandez’s allies thumped in Argentina mid-term vote

BUENOS AIRES, (Reuters) – Argentine President Cristina Fernandez’s allies took a beating in mid-term elections yesterday, shrinking her majority in Congress, ending chances of a constitutional change to allow her a third term and kicking off the contest to succeed her in 2015.

Voters chose half of the lower house of Congress and a third of the Senate. With 62 percent of ballot boxes counted, the government said the opposition was ahead throughout the country.

Re-elected in 2011 on promises of increasing state control in Latin America’s No. 3 economy, Fernandez’s political coattails were trimmed by inflation, clocked by private analysts at 25 percent. Heavy-handed currency controls and falling central bank reserves have dented confidence in her government.

“Seven of every 10 votes cast today went against the government. This election was a triumph for the opposition,” said local political analyst Rosendo Fraga.

Candidates sponsored by opposition leader Sergio Massa led the House of Deputies’ contest by 43 percent to 32 percent in the key province of Buenos Aires, Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo said, citing partial results.

Buenos Aires is home to 40 percent of Argentina’s voters and most of the country’s agricultural output. The loss in this strategic province was expected to shrink the majority that Fernandez’s alliance has in Congress to just a few votes.

Massa, the mayor of the affluent Buenos Aires town of Tigre, headed his own list of candidates for Congress and is seen as a possible, business-friendly presidential contender in 2015.

“Tomorrow, we start with a new political map,” said Mauricio Macri, mayor of capital city Buenos Aires and another possible presidential candidate who promises a shift toward market-friendly policies.

Sunday’s vote also tested the support of other presidential hopefuls. Julio Cobos, a Radical Party member from Mendoza, won his race, as did Hermes Binner, a socialist from Santa Fe.

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