NEW: Preliminary results give the incumbent a comfortable lead
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner went into Sunday's vote as the undisputed front-runner
Fernandez supporters crowd the Plaza de Mayo
Fernandez, 58, has said her second term will be dedicated to her late husband's memory.
Dressed in black, evoking her trademark style, Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner addressed cheering crowds after preliminary vote counts on Sunday showed her heading toward re-election.
“I have come to places in my life I have never thought I’d arrive. The honor of not just being the first woman elected president but re-elected president … my partner served as president… what else could I want?” said Fernandez, amid fireworks, car horns and celebratory music.
Continuously weaving her role as the nation’s leader with being the widow of former president Nestor Carlos Kirchner, who died in 2010, Kirchner said she carries her husband’s ideals as she returns to office.
Fernandez, 58, has said her second presidential term will be dedicated to her late husband’s memory.
“Today is a rare day for me, because there are too many feelings,” said Kirchner in her trademark dramatic tone. “If I tell you I am happy, I lie, if I tell you I am sad, I lie…I am not speaking as his widow but as his partner in militancy for the rest of my life,” she said.
Thousands crammed into Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo waving flags and shouting “Viva Cristina, Viva Peronismo!’ to welcome back their charismatic leader, the second woman to serve as president of Argentina. Entire families and groups of activists cheered as results trickled in showing the incumbent president with a considerable advantage over her opponents.
Activist groups, unions, farmers, laborers and groups of indigenous Argentines waved their flags in a passionate display of support for their candidate.
While official results will be announced on Monday, preliminary results showed the incumbent with 52.7% of the vote.
Some analysts in Argentina said this is a historic victory for Argentina, propelling Fernandez as one of the nation’s most popular leaders in recent history. The same analysts also show concern for what has become known as the new “Cristinismo”, a populist pro-Fernandez fever which, according to La Nacion writer Luis Majul, leaves very little room for checks and balances.
“Tomorrow, or when the struggle for succession begins, and we become informed of the true cost-of-living indices, poverty and unemployment, some ‘soldiers of Cristina’ will recognize that their idolatry was exaggerated by the model,” Majul wrote
Fernandez, a center-left member of the Peronist party, handily won the primary. Fernandez garnered more than half the country’s votes, making her the undisputed front-runner going into Sunday’s election.
Among her closest competitors in the presidential election were Hermes Binner, Ricardo Alfonsin and Eduardo Duhalde.Alfonsin is a member of the opposition Radical Party and the son of the late Raul Alfonsin, who became Argentina’s president in 1983 following seven years of military dictatorship.
Duhalde is a long-time Peronist party leader who ruled Argentina from 2002 to 2003 in the wake of the country’s $95 billion debt default, which ushered in historically high levels of crime, unemployment and poverty.
He was succeeded in May 2003 by Nestor Kirchner, a relatively unknown governor from Patagonia who championed human rights causes and implemented unorthodox financial policies that many credit with helping to bring the Argentine economy back from the brink.
In 2007, Kirchner stepped aside so his wife, Fernandez, could run. She was elected with 45% of the vote, becoming Argentina’s first elected female president.
Under Fernandez’s leadership, Argentina’s economy has enjoyed sustained growth of about 8% annually. The president points to this expansion and a low debt load as examples of how Argentina is well-positioned to weather the uncertainty in the current global markets.
In an August speech, the president said strong economic growth and human rights advances are key to her past and future mandates.
“Strength Argentina! Forward Argentina! We will continue growing, with social inclusion, with justice, memory and truth,” she said.
However, her critics contend the economy is only booming because of high commodity prices and have repeatedly accused her government of tampering with economic statistics. Argentina’s official annual inflation rate is around 9%, but most analysts and consumers suspect it is really three times that number.
Kirchner died suddenly from a heart attack in October 2010, and Fernandez has benefited politically from an outpouring of sympathy. Over the past year, she has worn only black in public, and repeatedly refers to “him” in fiery – and sometimes teary – campaign speeches.
Fernandez, who voted in the city of Rio Gallegos, said this vote evoked memories of her late husband, Argentina’s official TELAM news agency reported.
“I happen to be the wife of a very special man, who had great impact on Argentine politics and is already a part of history”, she said.
Voting is obligatory in Argentina and some 28 million people were eligible to vote in Sunday’s election.
CNN’s Brian Byrnes, Claudia Dominguez and Helena de Moura contributed to this report.