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Conservative opposition looks set to force runoff in Argentine presidential poll

Conservative opposition candidate Mauricio Macri looks set to take the ruling party's Daniel Scioli into a runoff for the Argentine presidency. With 90 percent of votes in, both men have around 35 percent.

The business-friendly mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri (photo), was leading with 36 percent after 90 percent of votes had been counted after Sunday's poll. His opponent, Daniel Scioli was at 35 percent.

"What happened today will change politics in this country," Macri said in a speech to supporters on Sunday. Many Argentines have expressed concern about high government spending and inflation of 30 percent as well as the long-running legal fight with creditors in the US that has kept the country out of international credit markets.

Daniel Scioli has been backed by outgoing President Cristina Fernandez. He had hoped for an outright victory. Polls had predicted Scioli would win by more than 10 points.

Sergio Massa stood in third place with 21 percent of the vote. A former ally of President Cristina Kirchner, he fell out with her and launched a rival party, the Renewal Front, two years ago.

With 30 percent of votes yet to be counted, Scioli could still overtake Macri. Nearly half of the results from Scioli's stronghold, Buenos Aires province, were yet to arrive. But the two men would still probably have to go to a second round - scheduled for November 22.

In order to win outright, a candidate must claim more than 45 percent of the vote, or at least 40 percent with a margin of 10 points over the runner-up.

If it takes place, the runoff will be Argentina's first. The country adopted a two-round presidential election system in 1973 but has never before held elections needing the second round vote.

Kirchner and her late husband Nestor ruled Argentina for 12 years.

jm/gsw (AP, Reuters)

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