THE COUNTRY: About four times the size of Texas, Argentina has 41 million people and is Latin America’s third-largest economy. Population is largely of European descent and at least nominally Roman Catholic. Its most famous citizen is Pope Francis. The country remains traumatized by its 2001-2002 economic crash under free-market governments that wiped out many people’s savings.
CURRENT GOVERNMENT: The election ends 12 years in power for the Kirchners: first Nestor Kirchner in 2003 and then his wife Cristina Fernandez, who was elected in 2007 and 2011. (He died in 2010.) They expanded welfare programs and allied Argentina with leftists such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Economic growth was strong during much of the previous decade, but the economy has stalled in recent years, with high inflation and a slumping national currency.
THE CANDIDATES: Fernandez’s movement backed former Vice President Daniel Scioli, a 58-year-old businessman who lost an arm as a boat racer. His opponent was Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, 56, also a businessman and former president of the Boca Juniors soccer club.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: Scioli promised to continue the Kirchners’ welfare state policies while making corrections to get the economy back on track. Macri campaigned on promises to make large reforms to the protectionist economy installed by the Kirchners while retaining key welfare benefits. Both candidates said they would try to solve a longstanding dispute with U.S. bondholders that has frozen Argentina out of international credit markets.