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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 October 2007, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Key questions in Argentina's election
By Daniel Schweimler
BBC News, Buenos Aires

Nestor Kirchner standing in front of a giant image of his wife at her final campaign rally
Nestor Kirchner made way for his wife - but why?
There are several key questions relating to the Argentine presidential election on Sunday to which no-one has provided any answers.

The first is why President Nestor Kirchner, riding high in the opinion polls, facing an unpopular and fragmented opposition, and with the economy looking healthy, decided he wasn't going to stand for a second term in office.

Instead, he opened the way for his wife, Cristina, to take over.

There were plenty of rumours. Perhaps he was sick, said some. Or with a two-term limit for the Argentine presidency, he could allow his wife to continue his work for four years then bounce back in 2011 for a further eight years in office.

Mr Kirchner has never explained why he stood down or what he will do when he hangs up the presidential sash.

Cristina Kirchner is glamorous. She is a confident speaker and in recent months travelled the world making friends and forming alliances.

The main thing driving the Argentine electorate is fear. Fear of a political collapse.
Felipe Noguera
Political analyst
Being the president's wife, she promises continuity. But being very different to him she can also promise change, and distance herself from his mistakes.

Cristina Kirchner has been well ahead in the opinion polls, with most predicting she will win a clear majority, with no need for a second round of voting

But there lies the second unanswered question. Can Argentines trust the official statistics fed to them on a daily basis?

Divided opposition

The former economy minister and current presidential candidate, Roberto Lavagna, says the opinion polls are controlled by the government.

In a BBC interview, he said: "The opinion polls in Argentina are used to create a political situation, not to inform the public about what is going on."

He added that a clearer indication of the government's popularity were the defeats they suffered in regional elections earlier this year.

Roberto Lavagna
Roberto Lavagna was economy minister from 2002 to 2005
Mr Lavagna is convinced the election will go to a second round of voting at the end of November and that he will be the one battling it out with Cristina Kirchner.

The other main contender is former beauty queen Elisa Carrio, who is campaigning on a left-of-centre ticket.

But political analyst Felipe Noguera says the opposition has pretty much collapsed. He added that the political crisis of six years ago is still fresh in most Argentines' minds and the opposition has little chance of making any kind of breakthrough.

"The main thing driving the Argentine electorate is fear," he said. "Fear of a political collapse. They may not like what the Kirchners have to offer but he's basically kept the ship going in some sort of direction. They don't want to rock the boat."

Lies and statistics?

Another doubt in Argentina is over the official statistics the government uses to back up their claims that things are going well.

Scuffles outside the statistics institute in August
Anger over the way figures were being used boiled over in August
Even the workers at the government's official statistics office, Indec, say their figures are manipulated to create the impression the economy is doing better than it really is.

They regularly hold demonstrations outside their Buenos Aires offices against what they say is government interference. The government, not surprisingly, denies this.

Economist Carlos Rodriguez Braun said: "The government is not trying to control inflation, it is only controlling the figures on inflation."

Despite rising prices and the fear that inflation might again rear its ugly head, the economy is doing well.

On average, it has been growing 8% a year and many Argentines who left the country during the economic collapse in 2001-02 are coming home.

The other great fear is security, and with a daily dose of news stories about kidnappings, armed robberies and murders, Argentines understandably put that issue at the top of their list of concerns.

Funeral of Sergeant Pedro Diaz, killed along with two other police officers on 19 October
The killing of three police officers on 19 October shocked Argentines
A few months ago, the election was easy to predict, some might say even a little dull.

Nestor Kirchner would easily win a second term in office and the opposition was nowhere to be seen. But then everything changed.

The president said his wife was standing in his place, his government was hit by a series of corruption scandals, pro-government candidates lost several regional elections and doubts began to grow over whether what the people were being told bore any relation to reality.

All of a sudden, the Argentine presidential election started to look a lot more interesting.

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Argentina's three female presidential candidates



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