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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 October 2007, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Q&A: Argentine election
Argentines go to the polls on 28 October to elect a new president, as well as eight provincial governors, a third of the Senate and about half of the Chamber of Deputies.

The economic collapse of 2001 plunged more than half the population into poverty. The impact was all the greater in a country that had traditionally been one of the richest in Latin America.

But in recent years, under President Nestor Kirchner, the economy has grown and unemployment has fallen.

What are the main campaign issues?

The state of the economy has always been a big issue in Argentina and this election is no exception. After the 2001 crisis, the economy is now growing at an average of 8% a year.

ELECTION ARITHMETIC
27m eligible voters
Winner needs 45%, or 40% plus 10-point lead
If needed, second round on 25 November
New president to be sworn in on 10 December

Employment is also up and poverty levels are down. But the majority of the jobs that have been created are in the informal sector, where workers receive lower wages and no benefits.

Inflation, a ghost of Argentina's recent past, is rising and thought to be double the government figures.

There are parts of the country, like in the northern province of Chaco, which is so poor that there were reports of people dying of hunger. So while the economy is doing well, wealth is not being equally distributed.

What other challenges will the next president face?

This is tied in with the economy. Since the devaluation of the peso in 2002, the prices of gas, electricity and water have been frozen.

Investment is badly needed to improve these services, as shortages of gas again showed during the winter. But the utility companies say they cannot invest any more unless they are allowed to raise prices.

Public health and education systems are in decline, but more and more people have to rely on the state sector because they cannot afford to pay for private healthcare or schooling.

Another issue is human rights. After the annulment of the amnesty laws last year, many former members of the military may have to face trial now. Will this affect the new government?

What about Argentina's foreign relations?

Under Mr Kirchner, Argentina has moved away from the US and become a close ally of other left-wing governments in the region, mainly Venezuela and Bolivia.

So will the new president continue this course or try to improve relations with Washington?

Closer to home, there is the issue of Mercosur, the trade bloc that joins Argentina to Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay - and will soon include Venezuela.

Relations with the UK have been difficult this year, the 25th anniversary of the 1982 Falklands Islands war. Argentina used the anniversary to renew its claim to sovereignty over the islands it calls the Malvinas. It also unilaterally scrapped an oil and gas exploration treaty with the UK.

The recent announcement by the British government that it is looking to claim sovereignty over a large area of the remote seabed off Antarctica also seems set to strain ties.

Who are the candidates and what are they proposing?

Firstly, they are all making similar noises about the economy and the need to tackle inequality.

Secondly, there has been very little public debate during the campaign.

The front-runner is Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner - Mr Kirchner's wife. She does not give news conferences or talk to the Argentine press.

What we do know is that she has promised, not surprisingly, to continue with his policies.

Roberto Lavagna is a former economy minister who served in the Kirchner administration. His stance is that the current government is throwing away the economic progress made so far.

Elisa Carrio, a centre-left former deputy, has gone on the attack over recent government corruption scandals, while Roberto Lopez Murphy, another former economy minister, advocates a higher profile for Argentina in international affairs.

How does the election work?

In the presidential election, to win outright in the first round a candidate needs to obtain either 45% of the vote, or 40% if they are 10 percentage points ahead of their nearest rival.

If neither happens, there will be a second round on 25 November. The new president will be sworn in on 10 December.

Voting is mandatory and there are some 27 million people eligible to vote.

In the other elections, Argentines will be choosing eight provincial governors, 24 members of the 72-seat Senate, and about half of the 257-seat Chamber of Deputies.





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