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Argentine political blocs share spoils in regional elections as libertarians lag

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By Walter Bianchi

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina’s main two political forces both secured victories in regional elections, results showed early on Monday, but candidates for a new libertarian party that has rattled the political landscape lagged behind.

Sunday’s vote in three northern provinces took place months before national primaries in August and a general election in October for which the ruling Peronists and opposition conservative bloc both lack a firm leader amid an economic crisis.

The Peronists celebrated a victory in the governorship race in the province of Tucuman, while the conservatives prevailed in San Luis for the first time in 40 years. They also won in wine region Mendoza.

Libertarian Javier Milei, who wants to dollarize the economy and scrap the central bank, has been polling strongly, threatening to overturn the political status quo, though the far-right economist faces a challenge with centrist voters.

Candidates allied to Milei, who individually leads some opinion polls ahead of the presidential elections, were well off the pace in all three provinces. The conservative opposition overall leads in the presidential election opinion polls.

In legislative elections in the province of Corrientes, which chose local lawmakers and councilors, candidates allied with the opposition Together for Change bloc won out, while results were balanced in mayoral elections in central Cordoba.

Argentina is battling inflation that could end the year near 150%, dwindling central bank reserves that are putting the state’s ability to make payments at risk, 40% poverty and the impact of a recent historic drought on grains exports.

(Reporting by Walter Bianchi; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Angus MacSwan)

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