BUENOS AIRES, July 13 (Reuters) - Argentine President Cristina Fernandez is running for a second term in an Oct. 23 election and polls suggest she could win easily, helped by a buoyant economy and the lack of a strong opposition challenger. [ID:nARVOTE]
A total of 10 candidates are registered for compulsory primaries on Aug. 14, which political analysts say will serve as a giant opinion poll for October's vote. [ID:nN1E76A0UR]
Here are brief profiles of the most prominent candidates:
Fernandez's approval ratings are running at about 55 percent, their highest since she was elected in 2007 to succeed her husband Nestor Kirchner as president. Kirchner's death late last year boosted Fernandez's popularity, which was already recovering due to robust economic growth and the opposition's disarray. Numerous polls suggest she could win enough support in October to avert a run-off vote, giving her a clear mandate to deepen the interventionist policies started by Kirchner in 2003.
Fernandez vows to intensify current policy, but economic analysts say she could be forced to take steps to tame double-digit inflation in a likely second term. She will likely delay any controversial reforms, such as slashing utility subsidies, until after the election.
Her choice of Economy Minister Amado Boudou as her vice presidential candidate and the inclusion of young loyalists on electoral lists suggest a similar policy line and a drive to stamp her authority on the Peronist party power base inherited from Kirchner. [ID:nN1E75R0B5]
Alfonsin rose to prominence after the death two years ago of his father, former President Raul Alfonsin, who led Argentina between 1983 and 1989.
He is second in most polls, but trails Fernandez by at least 15 points and he has the Radical party's poor governing record against him. The last Radical president to finish his term was Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear in 1928.
Alfonsin's choice of a running mate, economist and former central bank president Javier Gonzalez Fraga, could boost his economic credentials. Gonzalez Fraga shares the economic ideas of Kirchner's former economy minister Roberto Lavagna -- the architect of Argentina's 2005 debt restructuring.
Alfonsin tried to persuade Socialist governor Hermes Binner to be his running mate, but Binner launched his own bid. The Socialists and other leftist parties were unhappy about Alfonsin's pact with center-right congressman Francisco De Narvaez in the key district of Buenos Aires province.
Binner, governor of Santa Fe province, is the first Socialist to head a provincial government and is well respected in the central agro-industrial region, home to the Rosario grains export hub.
After talks with Alfonsin broke down, Binner launched his own bid with the backing of smaller leftist parties including the GEN, which is focused on Buenos Aires province, and the Proyecto Sur group of congressman Fernando "Pino" Solanas. However, Solanas has since fielded his own presidential candidate, further diluting the leftist opposition vote. In the latest poll by the Management & Fit consulting firm, Binner trailed in a distant third-place with support of 6.4 percent.
Duhalde, who governed briefly as Argentina emerged from an acute economic crisis in 2001-02, was once a backer of Kirchner but they fell out and Duhalde is now a prominent figure in the dissident ranks of the ruling Peronist party.
Duhalde, who has a high rejection rating, remains an influential figure in Peronism because of his links with powerful mayors in the working-class suburbs of Buenos Aires.
He is the best-known dissident Peronist challenger but support from right-leaning Peronists could split between him and Alberto Rodriguez Saa, a provincial governor. Duhalde has picked another dissident Peronist, Mario Das Neves, as his running mate. His support was 5.4 percent in the last Management & Fit poll.
A maverick governor and member of the dissident Peronist wing, Rodriguez Saa has dominated politics for years in his home province of San Luis with his brother Adolfo, who served as Argentina's president for a week during the 2001-02 crisis.
Polls show him as an outsider but he could attract conservative Peronist votes. Rodriguez Saa, an art lover and green crusader, advocates a tough line on crime and says he would work to restore credibility to the official INDEC statistics agency and limit state intervention in the economy.
Anti-corruption crusader Carrio came in second in the 2007 election behind Fernandez but she has lost a lot of ground since then, hurt by a series of fights with allies and public impatience with her apocalyptic warnings of impending doom.
A lawyer from the poor northern province of Chaco, Carrio is a sharp-tongued critic of the government and has recently taken aim at union leader Moyano. One of her most prominent collaborators is former central bank chief Alfonso Prat Gay.
A founding member of the Proyecto Sur movement led by film-maker Fernando "Pino" Solanas, sociologist Argumedo was elected to Congress in 2009. Like Solanas, she backs the nationalization of mineral and energy resources. She could struggle to gain traction after entering the race late and will compete for leftist votes with Binner. (Editing by Kieran Murray)