Monday, May 5, 2003

Polls show Argentine governor trouncing Menem

                  BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) -- Argentine center-left provincial
                  Gov. Nestor Kirchner looks set to trounce free-market ex-president
                  Carlos Menem in a May 18 presidential election runoff, according to two
                  new polls.

                  A nationwide poll by pollster Enrique Zuleta Puceiro showed 65.3 percent of
                  Argentines plan to vote for Patagonian leader Kirchner, until recently a relative
                  unknown, with only 26.1 percent supporting his fellow Peronist rival Menem.

                  A poll by Equis consultancy in and around the capital found 61.7 percent of voters will
                  back Kirchner versus 20.6 percent for Menem, who is seeking a third term at the age
                  of 72. The polls were first published in local newspapers on Sunday.

                  Menem won 24.4 percent of the April 27 first round vote and Kirchner 22 percent, but
                  Menem is seen at a disadvantage in the second round because he is widely reviled
                  for corruption scandals that plagued his 1989-1999 rule.

                  Many in Argentina -- now saddled with 60 percent poverty and 25 percent
                  joblessness -- blame Menem's free-spending and pro-market reforms for
                  contributing to the worst economic crisis to hit Latin America's No.3 economy.

                  "We expect support for Menem to grow as the campaign continues, but it is
                  impossible for him to turn things around in such a short amount of time," Zuleta
                  Puceiro told Reuters.

                  Kirchner has campaigned on taking a tough stand with international creditors
                  lumbered with billions of dol lars worth of defaulted Argentine bonds, vowing to put
                  Argentines first and seek to jump-start production and job creation.

                  Menem has vowed a friendlier approach to renegotiating Argentina's debt pile and
                  closer ties to Washington and the International Monetary Fund -- which many
                  Argentines blame for the deep crisis that has reduced many ex-workers to
                  scavenging through garbage.

                  Jobs and the economy top the list of voter concerns in Zuleta Puceiro's survey, while
                  honesty and ability to govern are valued above all other candidate traits.

                  Zuleta Puceiro's national survey was based on 1,100 interviews conducted between
                  April 28 and May 2, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

                  The Equis poll of 1,064 people, conducted in the Buenos Aires metropolitan region
                  during the same period, also has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage

                  Copyright 2003 Reuters.