Argentina's ailing president faces tough midterm congressional election

Argentina's ailing president faces tough midterm congressional election
Sergio Massa, mayor of Buenos Aires' Tigre district and candidate for congress in the upcoming October 27 midterm elections, gestures during a campaign rally in Hurlingham October 23, 2013.

BUENOS AIRES - Argentine President Cristina Fernandez is expected to lose some of her congressional clout in Sunday's midterm election as the ailing leader faces complaints over galloping inflation and a weakening currency.

Re-elected in 2011 on promises of increasing state control of Latin America's No. 3 economy, Fernandez's political coattails have been shortened by inflation, clocked by private economists at 25 per cent, while heavy-handed currency controls and falling central bank reserves dent confidence.

Voters will choose half of the lower house of Congress and a third of the Senate in Sunday's vote.

Fernandez has been unable to campaign for her congressional candidates since an October 8 operation to remove blood that pooled on her brain after falling and knocking her head in August. She is expected to continue convalescing for another few weeks.

The surgery marked the latest in a series of health issues for the 60-year-old leader, including low blood pressure and a thyroid tumour that also was surgically removed.

Candidates backed by Fernandez won just 26 per cent of the vote in the August midterm primary, half of what her alliance got in 2011, and her handpicked congressional candidate did poorly in the key province of Buenos Aires.

Some legislators had said they wanted a constitutional amendment to allow her to run for a third term. But a poor showing by Fernandez's branch of the Peronist party in the primary dashed those hopes. To push through reform, they would need two-thirds support in both houses.

Unless Fernandez's forces defy the opinion polls and clinch a strong congressional majority, the outcome will trigger a succession struggle ahead of the 2015 presidential election.

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