Argentina's main opposition party held leads in the country's capital and the important province of Buenos Aires in congressional primary elections on Sunday, early results showed, indicating a strong challenge to the ruling Peronist coalition.
The conservative Together for Change opposition party had a strong lead in the city of Buenos Aires, where it has a big support base, but also led in the surrounding province of the same name with 38.2% of total votes versus 33.6% for the ruling Front for All party.
That was with 87% of ballots counted in the city and about 59% in the province, the country's most-populous region, which backed the ruling party in the presidential election in late 2019.
The primary vote, in which balloting is mandatory, is an acid test for the government of President Alberto Fernandez ahead of the Nov. 14 midterm ballot, where 127 seats in the Chamber of Deputies are up for grabs out of a total of 257, as well as 24 seats out of 72 in the Senate.
The government, hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic and rising poverty, faces a challenge to its majority in the Senate and its hold over the largest bloc in the lower house, where it has a slim lead of some five seats over the main opposition party.
Many voters feel let down by the main political parties. A lengthy recession, rampant inflation and a poverty rate that has risen to 42% have hurt public support for the government, despite recent signs of an economic recovery and falling coronavirus cases.