• Opposition wins court ruling in balloting won by ruling party
  • Ruling party to appeal decision overturning gubernatorial vote

Argentina’s ruling party will appeal a decision by a court in Tucuman province to annul the results of gubernatorial elections held Aug. 23 amid allegations of fraud.

The court upheld complaints filed by Argentina’s opposition that ballot boxes were burned and voters bribed after the Victory Front alliance’s Juan Manzur was declared winner. Manzur garnered 51.6 percent of the votes against 39.9 percent for Jose Cano, who is backed by opposition presidential candidates Mauricio Macri and Sergio Massa. The court ordered that new elections should take place as soon as possible.

“This is one of the greatest judicial shocks in the history of Argentina,” Cabinet Chief Anibal Fernandez said Thursday. “The results showed an irreversible victory for Juan Manzur.”

Accusations of fraud in the provincial election have reverberated across Argentina as citizens prepare to elect a new president Oct. 25. Concern about the integrity and transparency of the voting system prompted the main opposition candidates -- Macri, Massa and Margarita Stolbizer -- to hold a first-ever joint news conference to call for electoral reform. The national electoral chamber on Wednesday announced modifications to the system.

The measures announced include the provision of witnesses and GPS tracking to monitor the postal system’s trucks that are used to transport ballots. Other steps mandate the use of an additional room at polling stations stocked with ballots that would be kept under lock and key for use if a voter claimed that there were insufficient ballots for a particular candidate.

The legal fight over the Tucuman vote may drag out even as the clock ticks down to the scheduled date for a handover of power on Oct. 27. If the appeals court in Tucuman repeals the ruling, Cano can take the case to Argentina’s Supreme Court.

Macri on Thursday welcomed the ruling and called for new elections as soon as possible.

Current Tucuman Governor Jose Alperovich said it would be impossible to organize new elections within 40 days. Marcelo Caponio, the Victory Front alliance’s representative in Tucuman, described the ruling as an institutional coup d’etat and said the national government may have to intervene and appoint an interim government for one or two years until normality is restored.

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