BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentines vote Sunday in a primary election that will act as a bellwether ahead of October general elections and give a hint at how eager citizens are for a change in a country that is suffering one of the world’s worst inflation rates.
The primary will determine who will be the presidential candidate in the main center-right opposition coalition in which Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta is facing off against former Security Minister Patricia Bullrich.
Whoever comes out on top will almost certainly be running against Economy Minister Sergio Massa, who is facing a leftist challenger to become the candidate of the ruling coalition. Center-left President Alberto Fernández decided not to run for reelection as he suffers from rock-bottom approval ratings amid annual inflation of more than 100%, rising poverty and a rapidly depreciating currency.
The primary will also finally give a firm answer on how much traction upstart right-wing populist candidate Javier Milei has gained with voters. An admirer of former U.S. President Donald Trump, Milei has attracted voters with an anti-establishment message that has particularly resonated with the young.
The campaign was largely dominated by the economy, but crime suddenly took center stage in the final days of campaigning after the killing of an 11-year-old girl during a snatch-and-grab robbery in a Buenos Aires suburb Wednesday. There also was outrage in Buenos Aires following the death of a leftist political activist, who suffered a heart attack while being detained by police during a protest Thursday.
Voting in the primary is mandatory. In the run-up to the vote, many in Buenos Aires expressed anger at politicians and said they had little faith things would change.
“Whoever rises, things will remain the same,” said Jennifer Marín, a retail worker. “Sincerely, I don’t believe in any of them.”