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Argentine leader has setback in Congress vote

President Cristina Fernandez is still popular.

EPA/File

President Cristina Fernandez is still popular.

BUENOS AIRES — President Cristina Fernandez’s ruling Front for Victory lost ground in Argentina’s congressional elections Sunday, giving up seats in the four largest districts. The vote marks the beginning of the end of a government that she and her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, have led for a decade.

Exit polls suggest opposition politician Sergio Massa’s slate did better in Buenos Aires province than the slate led by Martin Insaurralde, who was hand-picked to represent Fernandez in the lower house.

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It was too early to tell whether Fernandez would retain the thin majorities she has had, made up of ruling party lawmakers and allies in the House and Senate.

But after a decade of increasing presidential power, the new Congress could be in a position to reassert itself during the final two years of her second term.

Fernandez remains Argentina’s most popular politician nationwide, and has kept rivals in check by having allies float the idea of a “re-reelection” to a third term.

But Sunday’s vote appeared to bury that idea by denying her the two-thirds super-majorities needed in both houses of Congress to change the constitution.

Fernandez needs a majority in each house to reach a quorum and push through her agenda, and the ruling party has lost some sure votes in the current Congress. Half of the lower house and a third of the Senate were up for grabs in Sunday’s voting.

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