Argentine general election, 2003

Argentine general election, 2003
April 27, 2003

Nominee Néstor Kirchner Carlos Menem Ricardo López Murphy
Party Justicialist Party Justicialist Party Recreate for Growth
Alliance Front for Victory Front for Loyalty Recreate Federal Movement
Home state Santa Cruz La Rioja Buenos Aires
Running mate Daniel Scioli Juan Carlos Romero Ricardo Gómez Diez
States carried 7 13 CABA
Popular vote 4,312,517 4,740,907 3,173,475
Percentage 22.2% 24.5%

President before election

Eduardo Duhalde
Justicialist Party

Elected President

Néstor Kirchner
Justicialist Party

Argentina held presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday, April 27, 2003. Turnout was 78.2%. No one presidential candidate gained enough votes to win outright, but the scheduled runoff was canceled when first-round winner Carlos Menem pulled out, handing the presidency to runner-up Néstor Kirchner.


For the first time since the return of democracy in 1983, the Justicialist Party (PJ) failed to agree on a single presidential candidate. Three credible Peronist candidates ran in the election: center-right former President Carlos Menem, center-left Santa Cruz Province Governor Néstor Kirchner, and centrist San Luis Province Former president Adolfo Rodríguez Saá.[1] None were officially supported by the party, though President Eduardo Duhalde publicly endorsed Governor Kirchner on January 15, 2003. The PJ suspended its January 24 convention, opting to allow the three contenders to run on the Peronist mantle. None of the candidates were allowed to use the traditional Peronist iconography in detriment of the others.[1]

For the first time since 1916, the UCR did not field a presidential candidate.[1] After the political collapse at the peak of the economic crisis that led to the resignation of President Fernando de la Rúa at the end of 2001, popular support for the UCR was at historically low levels. Two strong former members of the UCR founded parties based on their politics: Congresswoman Elisa Carrió founded a left-of-center party, the ARI, and economist Ricardo López Murphy founded a right-wing one, Recrear.

These five strong candidates were practically tied in all the pre-election polls. Menem obtained the most votes in the first round, but far short of a first-round victory (about 25%), so a runoff election against Kirchner was required, and was scheduled for May 18. However, after two terms in office from 1989 to 1999, Menem's popularity remained very low. All signs pointed to a record victory for Kirchner (polls showed him leading Menem by anywhere from a 35 to a 50% margin).[2][3][4] Rather than face a humiliating defeat, Menem withdrew from the runoff on May 14, a move that was roundly criticized by the other candidates.[5][3] The courts refused to authorize a new election, and also refused to sanction a runoff between Kirchner and López Murphy (though the latter let it be known he would not take part in any case). Finally, Congress sanctioned Kirchner as president-elect, with the lowest vote share ever recorded for a president in a free election.

Legislative races

Legislative and gubernatorial elections were held throughout 2003, with polls open in different provinces between April and November; average turnout was 70.8%.[6]

These elections were unprecedented in their staggered scheduling; indeed, legislators and governors were chosen over 15 different dates, during 2003. They were also, however, a return to political normalcy following a chaotic and economically depressed 2002.

The Justicialist Party, which was divided among three candidates in the presidential race, remained largely united in legislative and local races. They added 12 seats in the Argentine Chamber of Deputies, as well as 2 governorships, and fears of a high number of dissident tickets did not materialize.

The centrist Radical Civic Union, senior partners in the ill-fated Alliance that had returned them to power in 1999, were left with their smallest representation since 1954, though they were not replaced by the center-left ARI in a significant way; the ARI added but 2 Congressmen.

Voters sentiment improved over 2001 levels (when the sentiment among many was that "they should all go"), though not significantly. Turnout increased only modestly, and the use of invalid votes declined from 24% to 15% from the tense 2001 elections. Voters in the important Santa Fe Province, in particular, curbed their use of spoiled ballots from 30% to 20%.[7]

Kirchner ended 2003 on a more secure footing than before these local and legislative elections. He benefited from allies such as the new governor of the paramount Buenos Aires Province, Felipe Solá, as well as the Mayor of Buenos Aires, Aníbal Ibarra. Argentina celebrated 20 years of continuous democratic rule on December 10, 2003, with a new government carrying generous numbers of allies in Congress and the provinces, as well as voters' high expectations.[7]


 Summary of the 27 April 2003 Argentine presidential election results
Candidates Nominating parties 1st Round
1st Round% 2nd Round
Carlos Saúl Menem Front for Loyalty 4,740,907 19.48 abandoned
Union of the Democratic Centre (Unión del Centro Democrático) 4.97
Néstor Carlos Kirchner Front for Victory (Frente para la Victoria) 4,312,517 22.24 Winner
Ricardo López Murphy Recreate for Growth (Recrear para el Crecimiento) 3,173,475 16.37
Adolfo Rodríguez Saá Front of the Popular Movement (Frente Movimiento Popular) 2,735,829 12.07
Union and Liberty Party (Partido Unión y Libertad) 2.04
Elisa María Avelina Carrió Alternative for a Republic of Equals (Alternativa para una República de Iguales) 2,723,574 14.05
Leopoldo Moreau Radical Civic Union (Unión Civica Radical) 453,360 2.34
Patricia Walsh United Left (Izquierda Unida) 332,863 1.72
Alfredo Bravo Socialist Party (Partido Socialista) 217,385 1.12
Total positive votes 19,387,895
Total votes 19,930,111
Source: Ministerio del Interior

Argentine Congress

Party/Electoral Alliance Lower House
% of votes Senate
Justicialist Party 129 36.3% 41
UCR 54 14.2% 16
ARI 13 8.0%
Popular Movement for Buenos Aires
(Buenos Aires Province)
9 3.9%
Commitment to Change
(City of Buenos Aires)
5 4.0%
Strength of Buenos Aires Alliance
(City of Buenos Aires)
4 1.5%
Renewal Front Alliance
(Misiones Province)
4 1.1%
Neuquén People's Movement
(Neuquén Province)
4 0.6% 2
Self-determination and Freedom 4 1.3%
New Front Alliance
(Córdoba Province)
3 2.7% 1
Republican Force
(Tucumán Province)
3 0.8% 2
Others 25 25.6% 10
Invalid votes 14.5%
Total 257 100.0% 72


Governors and Mayor of Buenos Aires

Provincial officials in all districts except Corrientes Province, were elected, as well as the Chief of Government of the City of Buenos Aires. The Justicialist Party wrested two governorships from the UCR (Chubut and Entre Ríos Provinces), and the UCR recovered Tierra del Fuego from the Justicialists.[9]

District Elected Governor Party % Runner-up Party %
Buenos Aires Felipe Solá Justicialist 43.3 Luis Patti Federalist Unity Party 13.3
Catamarca Eduardo Brizuela del Moral Civic Social Front (UCR) 50.8 Luis Barrionuevo Justicialist Front 43.5
Chaco Roy Nikisch UCR 53.4 Jorge Capitanich Front for Victory 40.9
Chubut Mario Das Neves Justicialist 45.6 José Lizurume L UCR 41.2
City of Buenos Aires1 Aníbal Ibarra R Great Front 53.5 Mauricio Macri Commitment to Change 46.5
Córdoba José Manuel de la Sota R Justicialist 51.8 Oscar Aguad UCR 37.2
Entre Ríos Jorge Busti Justicialist 44.6 Sergio Varisco Social Front Alliance 34.4
Formosa Gildo Insfrán R Justicialist 71.8 Gabriel Hernández Front for All 24.4
Jujuy Eduardo Fellner R Justicialist 55.8 Gerardo Morales UCR 35.2
La Pampa Carlos Verna Justicialist 49.1 Francisco Torroba Alternative Front 25.5
La Rioja Ángel Maza R Justicialist 55.4 Jorge Yoma Work and Production Front 43.4
Mendoza Julio Cobos UCR 42.9 Guillermo Amstutz Justicialist 35.7
Misiones Carlos Rovira R Renewal Front 47.9 Ramón Puerta Justicialist 32.4
Neuquén Jorge Sobisch R Neuquén People's Movement 56.1 Aldo Duzdevich Justicialist 19.9
Río Negro Miguel Saiz UCR 32.6 Julio Arriaga Great Front 20.4
Salta Juan Carlos Romero R Justicialist 49.7 Andrés Zottos Salta Renewal Party 24.4
San Juan José Luis Gioja Justicialist 41.4 Roberto Basualdo Life and Commitment Front 30.8
San Luis Alberto Rodríguez Saá Justicialist 90.1 Marcelo Shortrede Fatherland and Family Movement 5.5
Santa Cruz Sergio Acevedo Justicialist 70.9 Anselmo Martínez Convergence for Santa Cruz 27.9
Santa Fe Jorge Obeid Justicialist 43.2 Hermes Binner Socialist Party 38.3
Santiago del Estero2 Mercedes Aragonés de Juárez R Justicialist 68.1 José Luis Zavalía UCR 13.0
Tierra del Fuego Jorge Colazo UCR 52.8 Carlos Manfredotti L Justicialist 47.2
Tucumán José Alperovich Justicialist 44.4 Esteban Jerez Union for Tucumán 25.8

1: The City of Buenos Aires is not a province but an autonomous federal territory. The head of the local Executive is referred to as "Government Chief."
2: Election held September 15, 2002.
R: Reelected.
L: Incumbent lost.


  1. 1 2 3 Fraga, Rosendo (2010). Fin de ciKlo: ascenso, apogeo y declinación del poder kirchnerista. Ediciones B. pp. 21–23.
  2. "Menem pierde el invicto y la fama". Página/12.
  3. 1 2 Uki Goñi (May 15, 2003). "Menem bows out of race for top job". The Guardian. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  4. "Menem pierde el invicto y la fama". Página/12.
  5. Todo Argentina: Kirchner (Spanish)
  6. 1 2 Andy Tow's Electoral Atlas of Argentina
  7. 1 2 Todo Argentina: 2003 (Spanish)
  8. Argentine Interior Ministry
  9. "Gobernador electo (2003)". Atlas Electoral de Andy Tow.
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