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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 October 2007, 01:30 GMT
Argentina's first lady wins poll
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Nestor Kirchner greet supporters
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner consistently led the opinion polls

Argentina's current first lady, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has secured victory in the country's presidential election.

With ballots counted at almost all polling stations, Mrs Kirchner had an unassailable 44.9% lead.

Her nearest rival, former lawmaker Elisa Carrio, has admitted defeat, trailing on 23% of the vote.

Mrs Kirchner will succeed her husband Nestor Kirchner and become Argentina's first elected female president.

"We've won by a wide margin," she told supporters in a speech at her campaign headquarters at a hotel in Buenos Aires.

27m eligible voters
14 candidates
Winner needs 45%, or 40% plus 10-point lead
New president to be sworn in on 10 December
President serves four-year term

"But this, far from putting us in a position of privilege, puts us instead in a position of greater responsibilities and obligations," she said.

As her husband, the outgoing president, stood at her side, she said she would build on his work.

"We have repositioned the country, fought poverty and unemployment, all these tragedies that have hit Argentines," she said, referring to the country's recovery from the 2001 economic crash.

"We know it's necessary to deepen the changes, and to do that, we need to rally the biggest number of Argentines to help us," she said.

Elisa Carrio, who performed well in the capital Buenos Aires, secured 23% of the overall vote, with ex-economy minister Roberto Lavagna in third place on 17%.

Eleven candidates split the rest of the ballots.

Mrs Kirchner needed more than 45% of the full vote, or 40% with a 10 point lead over the next nearest candidate, to win the presidency without facing a second round of voting.

Roberto Lavagna (left) and Elisa Carrio
Roberto Lavagna and Elisa Carrio are Mrs Kirchner's main rivals

Polling was extended by one hour in some parts of the country to 1900 local time (2200 GMT) to accommodate a late rush of voters.

Besides a new president, voters were choosing eight provincial governors, a third of the Senate and about half of the Chamber of Deputies.

Some 27 million people were eligible to vote.

Economy and crime

The economy and rising crime have been the two main issues in campaigning.

Mr Kirchner has overseen a return to stability and some prosperity since the economy collapsed six years ago, plunging thousands into poverty, the BBC's Daniel Schweimler reports from Buenos Aires.

Argentines give their views on candidates and issues

But there are fears over how strong the economy really is and general scepticism over official statistics suggesting inflation is under control.

Mrs Kirchner's critics have attacked her for failing to outline exactly what her policies are, but voters who spoke to the BBC's Will Grant in Buenos Aires said the opposition had failed to offer any real alternative.

Surprise candidate

Just a few months ago, Mr Kirchner was riding high in the opinion polls and looked set to continue for a second term.

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However, it was announced in July that his wife Cristina, senator for Buenos Aires province, would stand in his place. No explanation was given.

It is not clear what role, if any, Mr Kirchner will play in his wife's administration.

But Mrs Kirchner, candidate for the governing Front for Victory, has promised to continue her husband's centre-left policies.

As well as facing comparisons with Eva Peron, Argentina's legendary former first lady, Mrs Kirchner has been compared to former US First Lady Hillary Clinton, who is also a lawyer and senator seeking to become the first elected female president of her country.

"I don't want to be compared with Hillary Clinton or with Evita Peron, or with anybody," she said recently.

"There's nothing better than being yourself."

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