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Argentina's First Lady Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was set to become her country's first elected woman president, early results showed, after her closest rival conceded defeat yesterday.
"We have won by a large margin," the 54-year-old senator told cheering supporters in a speech broadcast live on television, hours after polls closed. Officials worked into the night counting ballots from Sunday's election.
With 94percent of votes counted, she held an apparently unbeatable lead: nearly 45percent of the vote, almost double that of her nearest challenger.
"We congratulate and recognize her victory," said the second-place candidate, former lawmaker Elisa Carrio, in a broadcast speech. She had 23percent of the vote.
The score would make Fernandez the outright victor of the election without the need for a runoff next month. When confirmed as the winner, she will take office on December 10.
With her husband applauding on stage beside her, Fernandez made special mention "of the man who is at my side today, and who has been my companion all my life," and blew him a kiss.
In the lead-up to the elections - which she entered as the solid favourite - Fernandez emphasized her husband's presidential record more than her own two decades in politics as a lawmaker.
Kirchner, 57, enjoys widespread popularity for having overseen an impressive turnaround in Argentina's economy during his four-year mandate. He has not explained why he is stepping down.
When he came in, the country was still struggling after a 2001 economic collapse that saw it become the biggest-ever defaulter of sovereign debt.
Since then, the economy has grown nearly 50percent and unemployment has halved.
Fernandez reminded supporters of that and claimed part of the credit: "We have repositioned the country, fought poverty and unemployment, all these tragedies that have hit Argentinians." Observers, though, said she faces a tough challenge on the economy and could be in for a rough ride.