October 25, 1999
Argentine opposition leader wins presidential election

                  From staff and wire reports

                  BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- The candidate of Argentina's ruling Peronist
                  Party conceded defeat late Sunday as opposition leader Fernando de la Rua
                  took a wide lead in Argentina's presidential elections.

                  "The trend is already clear, and I come to salute you ... as president-elect of
                  all Argentines," said de la Rua, the candidate of the center-left Alliance

                  With more than 85 percent of the ballots counted early Monday, de la Rua
                  had 48.7 percent of the vote. Eduardo Duhalde, the governor of Buenos
                  Aires Province, had claimed only 37.7 percent of the vote in his bid to
                  succeed the Peronist incumbent, President Carlos Menem. Eight other
                  candidates took the remainder of the vote.

                  "People chose change," Duhalde said. "They thought the Alliance
                  represented that change, and I want to salute the new president."

                  De la Rua, the 62-year-old mayor of Buenos Aires, called it "a triumph for
                  everybody" and said he had already received a phone call from Menem,
                  who "congratulated me for winning."

                  Television and radio exit polls aired moments after voting ended at 6 p.m.
                  local time (5 p.m. EDT) awarded de la Rua a big enough win over the
                  Peronists, who have been in power for 10 years, to avoid a second-round

                  De la Rua wants to "recuperate Argentina's dignity"

                  De la Rua told jubilant supporters in Buenos Aires that after taking office on
                  December 10, he would work to "recuperate Argentina's dignity" and
                  provide "more work, education and health for all."

                  Streets in Buenos Aires were filled with cars honking horns as de la Rua
                  supporters toasted the results of the exit poll, one of two showing a similar
                  big victory for the city's mayor.

                  De la Rua himself had expressed confidence throughout the day. "We did
                  our campaign job," he said while casting his vote Sunday.

                 Menem, who voted in his native La Rioja Province, had scoffed earlier at
                 campaign polls suggesting his ruling Peronist party was headed for a
                 resounding defeat in the presidential ballot.

                  "If I had been permitted to run, I am sure I would have won. But I still have
                  time for a future presidential election," said Menem before flying back to the

                  Menem flirted with candidacy

                  Menem had flirted with seeking an unprecedented third straight term, but
                  was barred by a constitutional prohibition and has said he will run again in
                  2003. A win for de la Rua means the end 10 years of unbroken Peronist
                  Party rule in the fourth national election since Democracy was restored in

                  De la Rua, a fiscal conservative, has said he will crack down on graft and
                  corruption while Duhalde said more needs to be done to combat an
                  economic recession that has resulted in double-digit unemployment.

                  Both candidates have said they would keep the peso pegged to the U.S.
                  dollar, a policy credited with keeping inflation at bay.

                  Focus is on Buenos Aires governorship

                  Meanwhile, with Peronist hopes for retaining the presidency dashed, much
                  of the interest surrounding the polling has focused on the governorship of
                  Buenos Aires, where about one-third of Argentines live. An Alliance
                  president would have a difficult time governing without the support of the

                  The Peronists have a majority in the Senate, not up for grabs in Sunday's
                  election, and a strong vote in the House. Vice President Carlos Ruckauf, a
                  Peronist, and human rights campaigner Graciela Fernandez Meijide, of the
                  Alliance, have fought a bitter battle for the governor's slot, and analysts said
                  the race was too close to call at the finish line.

                     Mexico City Bureau Chief Harris Whitbeck and Reuters contributed to this report.