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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate