Menem looks set for a second term

Carlos Menem looks like scoring outright victory for a second successive term as President of Argentina in Sunday's elections but a second-round run-off is far from ruled out. In the latter event, political horse-trading could conceivably lead to a second-round victory by his breakaway former Peronist colleague, Jose Octavio Bordon.

Opinion polls suggest Mr Menem, of the Justicialista (Peronist) Party, will score around the 45 per cent needed for an outright first round win. Even if he falls short of that, he is likely to meet the other criterion needed to avert a run-off - a score of 40 per cent combined with a 10- point margin over the nearest contender.

The incumbent's fast-sliding popularity, however, coupled with the equally rapid rise of Mr Bordon and the fact that 10 per cent of eligible voters remained undecided yesterday, left the word ballottage (run-off) on everyone's lips.

When Mr Menem last year pushed through the constitutional change that allows him to run for a second successive term - though shortened from six years to four - he was seen even by his opponents as a shoo-in. Hence his agreement to the novel run-off clause.

That, however, was before the two developments that shook Argentines out of political and economic stability. First came Mexico's devaluation and financial dbcle in December, bringing in its wake financial panic throughout South America. Since then, Argentines have moved an estimated £4.5bn out of the country, fearing Mr Menem would be forced to abandon the peso-dollar parity that has been credited with much of the recent economic stability.

Then, in March, a former navy captain broke the military code of silence and admitted helping to toss drugged detainees alive into the Atlantic from aircraft during the military regimes of 1976-83. The method was approved, perhaps even suggested, by Catholic Church leaders, according to Captain Adolfo Scilingo.

His confessions led to a national soul-searching, with army, navy and air force officers admitting collective guilt, while church leaders said they would respond later. The fact that Mr Menem had pardoned all officers convicted of "dirty war" crimes turned the issue from a moral to a political bombshell.

As Mr Menem, Mr Bordon and 12 other presidential candidates wound up campaigning last night, the President had largely succeeded in reinstating the economy as the key electoral issue. As he ended his campaign in the crucial Buenos Aires province, he and his advisers continued to push the line "better the evil you know than the good you don't know".

Mr Bordon said such comments were part of a "strategy of fear" employed by the Peronists. Mr Bordon, who left the Peronists last year to head a loose coalition known as Frepaso (Front for the Solidarity of the Country), was referring to comments by Mr Menem and his Finance Minister, Domingo Cavallo, describing Mr Bordon as a "traitor" and predicting economic chaos if he wins.

Such comments, coupled with the possibility that Mr Bordon could force a run-off, sent the Argentine stock market plunging at the start of this week. But polls suggesting an outright Menem victory, as well as an assurance by Mr Bordon to foreign bank representatives that he would maintain the peso-dollar parity, caused stocks to recuperate.

Mr Bordon was careful not to blame the Peronists for a fire which badly damaged Frepaso's Buenos Aires headquarters early on Wednesday, even though Interior Ministry investigators confirmed it had been started deliberately. Nor did he blame them directly for subsequent vandalism at a Frepaso leader's office or an attack by chain-wielding thugs on Frepaso militants putting up election posters in the capital on Wednesday.

In a matter of months, Mr Bordon, tipped to score around 32 per cent of votes, has shot ahead of the other leading candidate, Horacio Massaccesi of the Radical Civic Union. Polls give Mr Massaccesi 17 per cent of the vote.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
peopleGerman paper published pictures of 18-month-old daughter
Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicKate Bush set to re-enter album charts after first conerts in 35 years
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams' life story will be told in a biography written by a New York Times reporter
arts + ents
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Merger and Acquisition Project Manager

£500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN TAWe are looking to recrui...

Technical Manager – Heat Pumps

£40000 Per Annum dependent on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: They ...

Test Job

TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis