BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The race for mayor in Argentina's capital on Sunday was widely seen as a test of President Cristina Fernandez's re-election hopes, pitting one of her most prominent foes against a hand-picked ally.
Mauricio Macri, a conservative businessman and dedicated opponent of the president, decided to seek a second term rather than challenge Fernandez, whose popularity has increased in recent months. She chose leftist Sen. Daniel Filmus to run against Macri and has involved herself so personally in the campaign that the race is really more about whether voters want to bring her populist way of governing into city hall.
Polls before Sunday's election showed Macri with a wide lead over Filmus in a four-person race, but short of the majority needed in to avoid a July 31 runoff.
The capital's 2.4 million voters represent nearly 9 percent of Argentina's voting population, and have frequently sided against the national government. On Sunday, they also were choosing half of the city's legislature, and for the first time, local representatives for each of the city's 105 neighborhoods.
Filmus is a leftist who served as the late President Nestor Kirchner's education minister but came up outside the rank-and-file of the Kirchners' wing of the Peronist party. Macri is a civil engineer who jumped into politics after being president of the popular Boca Juniors football club.
"Macri will make the city more secure, more efficient," businessman Marcero Mitre, 57, said after casting his ballot. "I always vote for the conservatives."
But if Filmus is elected and the national and capital governments work together, many voters believe the city may get more resources.
"It will improve the budget," said Gracia Trinidad, a 31-year-old computer programmer who said she voted for Filmus even though she's "not exactly excited" about the choice. She appeared to be among many Argentines who expect Fernandez to be re-elected on Oct. 23. "Cristina is going to win. It's not like she has much competition," she said.
Trailing in the mayoral polls were leftist filmmaker Fernando 'Pino' Solanas and center-left Sen. Maria Eugenia Estenssoro, who complained that both Macri and Filmus had fed a polarization in Argentine society.