Five candidates in search of a tough task
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Five candidates in search of a tough task

There can't be many countries where the finance ministry gives visiting journalists an information pack including a graph entitled "Social protest events during 2002". Such events are helpfully defined as "crowd concentrations, mobilizations, blocking highways and downtown streets, partial and total strikes, takeover of establishments, and so on." Apparently the number of such events has fallen from over 2,000 a month in the first four months of the year to fewer than 1,000 a month since June.

Argentina, then, is the sort of country where having 847 protest events in December is grounds for self-congratulation on the part of the government. Being a politician there is not an easy job, yet five brave souls are putting themselves forward as candidates for president. None of them is particularly popular, and pretty much any two could reach the run-off in May. What's certain is that the eventual winner of the election - who will have just one week between winning the run-off and being inaugurated as president - will not have an overwhelming popular mandate. Argentines, for all their political sophistication, are sick and tired of politicians as a class, and 40% spoiled their ballots in the last elections for congress.

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