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
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
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
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
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
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