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Author`s name Michael Simpson

Argentina Elections: Menem May Quit Presidential Race

As opinion polls show, the two times president of Argentina far behind from his competitor Nestor Kirchner
All along the week, rumors about Menem's resignation to the presidential runoff scheduled for Sunday flooded Buenos Aires. On Tuesday, versions fueled by Menem's collaborators confirmed that the former president was going to quit, despite his declarations on the contrary. However, the information could not be officially confirmed and later, Menem's spokesman Jorge Azcarate said the candidate would report his decision from his native province, La Rioja, on Wednesday.

According to the electoral legislation, if Menem resigns from the runoff, Nestor Kirchner, who obtained the second place in the first round would be proclaimed President. Last pre-electoral surveys say Kirchner could obtain as much as 70% of the votes if the election takes place on Sunday.

During the cold and rainy afternoon in Buenos Aires, sources close to Menem made known that the former president had recorded a TV commercial explaining to the population the reasons for his decision. However, that information could not been independently confirmed, even when journalists were provided with part of the wording.

All in all, if Menem finally confirms his decision to quit, a serious damage to country's stability will be done. Then, Nestor Kirchner will have to take office with only 22% of the votes, the amount he obtained in the first round. When asked about Menem's possible decision to resign, the Santa Cruz Gov. replied that it would be an "institutional irresponsibility".

Sources told PRAVDA.Ru that Kirchner's position could be seriously affected, as he will be elected for low level of votes. Therefore, he would be forced to call on a referendum on his political and economical program to be legitimated as president.

If that is the case, the new scenario could put Argentina into a new process of institutional instability. Kirchner's centrist program is based on a continuity of the policies implemented by the current administration headed by President Eduardo Duhalde, Menem's main political foe, and call for a brad coalition of moderate forces to succeed. An unstable scenario may frustrate Kirchner's plans to go ahead with a neo-keynesian economical program and build up, together with Brazil, the political integration of Latin America.

Late in the evening, Menem saluted to his followers that joined at the gates of the centric hotel where Menem has his offices. "Brothers and sisters of my country; I won't let you down", he said briefly. As informed by his collaborators, Menem's final decision will be taken today and communicated to the whole nation from his natal province of La Rioja, 1,000 kilometers north from Buenos Aires.

Photo: Argentine presidential candidate, Carlos Saul Menem.

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