Voters in Buenos Aires re-elected center-right leader Mauricio Macri as their mayor on Sunday, rejecting a candidate supported by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and strengthening Macri's position for a possible presidential run in 2015.
The 52-year-old business tycoon, and former president of Boca Junior soccer team, defeated Daniel Filmus in a runoff race. With 99.2 percent of the ballots counted, Macri had 64.3 percent of the votes while Filmus got 35.7 percent.
"It is obvious that the natural process will be to build a national platform for 2015 ? there is no other road than that one," Macri said at a news conference on Monday.
President Fernández de Kirchner, who has long been at odds with the mayor, called to congratulate him. "The first thing I thought was, 'well I hope this means the beginning of a more constructive relationship'," Macri said about the president's call. Fernández de Kirchner and Macri have had bitter public disagreements over policies for Buenos Aires.
Sunday's ballot is seen as an important bellwether for Fernández de Kirchner and her Peronist Justicialist Party as this year's presidential race approaches. Last month, the so-called kirchneristas (or, Kirchner supporters), who make up the Justicialists, also lost an important gubernatorial race in Santa Fe, the country's fourth-largest voting district, when their candidate, Agustín Rossi, came in third in the election. The socialists won that province when their candidate Antonio Bonfatti narrowly defeated Miguel del Sel, the conservative Republican Proposal (PRO) party headed by Macri. It was also a boost for Macri, whose PRO party wasn't expected to make a fair showing in Santa Fe.
As President Fernández de Kirchner prepares her re-election bid in October, political analysts are also looking at Sunday's election in Córdoba, which is usually a traditional kirchnerista stronghold. Together with the capital, the two provinces make up 25 percent of all of Argentina's eligible voters.
But the president appears to have strong support according to the polls. In June, the polling firm CEOP placed Fernández de Kirchner ahead of her two closest contenders with 48.2 percent. The rivals, Ricardo Alfonsín of the Radical Party and Eduardo Duhalde, the leader of another Peronist faction and a political enemy of the kirchneristas, received 12.8 percent and 7.5 percent respectively.
For the first time, all the parties are under obligation to hold nationwide primaries on August 14. In theory, the Justicialists called for the primaries to force the parties to announce their coalitions early and to eliminate some of the small groups ? those who normally have poor showings at the ballot box ? from fielding candidates.
In an interview with the Buenos Aires daily La Nación, published on Monday, Macri said that he was "very interested in sitting down to hold talks with each of the candidates."
"We are also going to sit down and talk to the president, but not all dialogues end in an electoral agreement," he said.