2003 Argentine general election

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.

2003 Argentine general election

April 27, 2003
Nominee Carlos Menem Néstor Kirchner Ricardo López Murphy
Party Justicialist Party Justicialist Party Recreate for Growth
Alliance Front for Loyalty Front for Victory Recreate Federal Movement
Home state La Rioja Santa Cruz Buenos Aires
Running mate Juan Carlos Romero Daniel Scioli Ricardo Gómez Diez
States carried 12 8 CABA
Popular vote 4,741,202 4,313,131 3,173,584
Percentage 24.45%
22.25% 16.37%

Nominee Adolfo Rodríguez Saá Elisa Carrió Leopoldo Moreau
Party Justicialist Party ARI Radical Civic Union
Alliance People's Movement Union and Freedom Support for an Egalitarian Republic
Home state San Luis Chaco Buenos Aires
States carried 3
Popular vote 2,736,091 2,723,207 543,373
Percentage 14.11% 14.08% 2.34%

President before election

Eduardo Duhalde
Justicialist Party

Elected President

Néstor Kirchner
Justicialist Party


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][2] Rather than face a humiliating defeat, Menem withdrew from the runoff on May 14, a move that was roundly criticized by the other candidates.[4][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%.[5]

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%.[6]

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.[6]



Vice Presidential
Party or coalition First round Second round
Votes % Votes %
Carlos Menem Juan Carlos Romero 4,741,202 24.45 Withdrew
Néstor Kirchner Daniel Scioli 4,313,131 22.25 Winner
Ricardo López Murphy Ricardo Gómez Diez 3,173,584 16.37
Adolfo Rodríguez Saá Melchor Posse 2,736,091 14.11
Elisa Carrió Gustavo Gutiérrez 2,723,207 14.05
Leopoldo Moreau Mario Losada Radical Civic Union 543,373 2.34
Patricia Walsh Marcelo Parrilli 332,703 1.72
Alfredo Bravo Rubén Giustiniani Socialist Party 217,387 1.12
Jorge Altamira Eduardo Salas Workers' Party 139,402 0.72
Enrique Venturino Federico Pinto Kramer Confederación para que se Vayan Todos 129,782 0.67
Guillermo Sullings Liliana Ambrosio Humanist Party 105,705 0.55
José Carlos Arcagni Marcelo Zenof 63,386 0.33
Mario Mazziteli Adrián Camps Authentic Socialist Party 50,303 0.26
Carlos Zaffore Fabiana Perie Integration and Development Movement 47,954 0.25
Manuel Herrera Eduardo Cúneo Christian Democratic Party 47,755 0.25
Gustavo Breide Obeid Ramiro Vasena Peoples Reconstruction Party 42,461 0.22
Juan Ricardo Mussa Roberto Suárez 39,505 0.20
Ricardo Terán José Alejandro Bonacci Movement for Dignity and Independence 31,766 0.16
Total 19,388,697 100
Positive votes 19,388,697 97.28
Blank votes 196,563 0.99
Invalid votes 345,651 1.73
Turnout 19,930,911 78.22
Abstentions 5,550,499 21.78
Registered voters 25,481,410 100
Source: Dirección Nacional Electoral - Recorriendo las Elecciones de 1983 a 2013
2003 popular vote
López Murphy
Rodríguez Saá

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.[8]

District Elected Governor Party % Runner-up Party %
Buenos AiresFelipe SoláJusticialist43.3Luis PattiFederalist Unity Party13.3
CatamarcaEduardo Brizuela del MoralCivic Social Front (UCR)50.8Luis BarrionuevoJusticialist Front43.5
ChacoRoy NikischUCR53.4Jorge CapitanichFront for Victory40.9
ChubutMario Das NevesJusticialist45.6José Lizurume LUCR41.2
City of Buenos Aires1Aníbal Ibarra RGreat Front53.5Mauricio MacriCommitment to Change46.5
CórdobaJosé Manuel de la Sota RJusticialist51.8Oscar AguadUCR37.2
Entre RíosJorge BustiJusticialist44.6Sergio VariscoSocial Front Alliance34.4
FormosaGildo Insfrán RJusticialist71.8Gabriel HernándezFront for All24.4
JujuyEduardo Fellner RJusticialist55.8Gerardo MoralesUCR35.2
La PampaCarlos VernaJusticialist49.1Francisco TorrobaAlternative Front25.5
La RiojaÁngel Maza RJusticialist55.4Jorge YomaWork and Production Front43.4
MendozaJulio CobosUCR42.9Guillermo AmstutzJusticialist35.7
MisionesCarlos Rovira RRenewal Front47.9Ramón PuertaJusticialist32.4
NeuquénJorge Sobisch RNeuquén People's Movement56.1Aldo DuzdevichJusticialist19.9
Río NegroMiguel SaizUCR32.6Julio ArriagaGreat Front20.4
SaltaJuan Carlos Romero RJusticialist49.7Andrés ZottosSalta Renewal Party24.4
San JuanJosé Luis GiojaJusticialist41.4Roberto BasualdoLife and Commitment Front30.8
San LuisAlberto Rodríguez SaáJusticialist90.1Marcelo ShortredeFatherland and Family Movement5.5
Santa CruzSergio AcevedoJusticialist70.9Anselmo MartínezConvergence for Santa Cruz27.9
Santa FeJorge ObeidJusticialist43.2Hermes BinnerSocialist Party38.3
Santiago del Estero2Mercedes Aragonés de Juárez RJusticialist68.1José Luis ZavalíaUCR13.0
Tierra del FuegoJorge ColazoUCR52.8Carlos Manfredotti LJusticialist47.2
TucumánJosé AlperovichJusticialist44.4Esteban JerezUnion for Tucumán25.8

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. 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. Uki Goñi (May 15, 2003). "Menem bows out of race for top job". The Guardian. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  4. Todo Argentina: Kirchner (in Spanish)
  5. "Andy Tow's Electoral Atlas of Argentina". Archived from the original on 2011-05-24. Retrieved 2010-06-01.
  6. Todo Argentina: 2003 (in Spanish)
  7. Argentine Interior Ministry Archived 2009-10-14 at the Wayback Machine
  8. "Gobernador electo (2003)". Atlas Electoral de Andy Tow. Archived from the original on 2012-03-07. Retrieved 2012-06-22.
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