Argentine Peronist challenger seen winning presidency outright on October 27: polls

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Peronist opposition candidate Alberto Fernandez should beat business-friendly incumbent Mauricio Macri in the Oct. 27 presidential election by almost 20 percentage points, enough to clinch a first-round win, the most recent opinion polls show.

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The challenger drubbed Macri in the August primary vote, which in Argentina is seen as a dress rehearsal for the general election. Fernandez got a surprisingly high 47.78% in the primary to Macri’s 31.79%, showing the extent to which the president’s tight fiscal policies had hurt his popularity.

Buenos Aires online polling firm Clivajes said its surveys show Fernandez should get 53.7% of the Oct. 27 vote to Macri’s 33.2%, mirroring other surveys with similar results.

The primary election count depressed the local peso and sovereign bond prices. More bleeding of Argentine asset prices is possible due to uncertainty about the measures Fernandez would take to spark growth in the recession- and inflation-racked economy if elected.

Argentina is facing a debt crunch after the financial market downturn pushed the country toward default, forcing Macri to roll out plans to delay payments on around $100 billon of debt.

He has recently taken popular measures to bolster jobs and cut taxes. But as poverty has increased to over 35% during his four-year term, pollsters give him little chance of re-election.

“Fernandez’s vote is very consolidated,” local analyst Julio Burdman said in an interview. “It is based on the unity of Peronism, plus the rejection of Macri’s economy, and that won’t change.”

Investors, however, fear that Fernandez might impose heavy regulations on the economy, as his running mate, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, did during her two terms as president from 2007 to 2015.

Consultancy Ricardo Rouvier and Associates said it expected the Peronist coalition - called Frente de Todos, or Front for All - to win the election 52.3% to 34.3%. Polling firm Trespuntozero sees a 52.5% to 34.8% victory for Fernandez.

Pollster Gustavo Cordoba & Associates sees it 50.3% to 31.8%. Argentine law says that to win the presidency outright in October, a candidate must reach 45% of the vote or 40% with a spread of 10 percentage points over the nearest rival.

Reporting by Marina Lammertyn; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Richard Chang