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Polling opens in Argentina's presidential runoff

Polls have opened in Argentina's runoff presidential election that could see an end to 12 years of leftist rule. Mauricio Macri, the pro-business candidate and mayor of Buenos Aires, leads his opponent Daniel Scioli.

Leading up to Sunday's vote, pundits said Argentina's center-right opposition would have its

best chance in more than a decade

to win the presidency.

Polls showed that the mayor of Buenos Aires and the former Boca Juniors football executive

Mauricio Macri

could beat his

left-wing rival Daniel Scioli,

an ex-power boating champion, who is backed by the ruling Front for Victory party.

The latest survey by consultancy Management and Fit showed Macri with 55.3 percent and Scioli with 44.7 percent support. But the polls also reported millions of undecided voters ahead of Sunday's runoff, despite more than a month of frenetic campaigning.

Strong turnout

A candidate needs 45 percent of the vote to win outright, or a minimum of 40 percent with a 10-point lead over his nearest rival.

Daniel Scioli

Leftist candidate Daniel Scioli was hand-picked by outgoing President Cristina Fernandez

Polling stations opened at 8:00 a.m. local time (11:00 UTC) as queues formed in several suburbs of the capital, Buenos Aires.

Outgoing President Cristina Fernandez is barred from seeking a third straight term.

She and her late husband Nestor's 12 years in power have been marked by generous welfare programs but strict economic controls of which, critics say, many Argentines have grown weary.

Fernandez' candidate, Scioli, lost his frontrunner status after the October 25 first-round vote when Macri unexpectedly came in right on his heels, promising a change in the country's fortunes.

At a crossroads

Macri wants to undo much of Fernandez' free-spending popularism and instead open Latin America's No. 3 economy to more investment by lifting currency and trade controls. His campaign strategist told DW that

Argentines are crying out for something different.

Scioli, seen as more of a moderate than Fernandez, says he would be flexible in adjusting macro-economic policy while standing by the poor. But compared to Macri, he's billed himself as the enemy of the "“savage capitalism.”"

Election posters

Pollsters said millions of voters remained undecided ahead of Sunday's runoff vote

Many Argentines are worried at the thought of a dramatic shift in policy after a 2001 economic collapse tossed millions into poverty.

While the economy has since boomed, growth is slowing once again along with subdued activity in neighboring Brazil and other BRICS countries.

However, the Argentine stock index has shot up 25 percent since Macri gained ground during the first round.

Whoever wins will need to come up with a final solution to a marathon legal battle with bondholders over 94 billion euros ($100 billion) in unpaid debt stemming from Argentina's record default at the turn of the century.

mm/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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