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Argentina's Macri names surprise VP candidate

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Buenos Aires (AFP)

President Mauricio Macri surprised Argentines on Tuesday by naming a former ally of his arch-rival Cristina Kirchner as his vice-presidential candidate in October's general election.

Miguel Angel Pichetto, a 68-year-old lawyer, has a long history of association with the same political coalition as Kirchner, who was president from 2007-15, and her late husband Nestor Kirchner, whom she succeeded in the presidential palace.

Macri came to power in 2015 at the head of the Cambiemos (Let's Change) coalition trumpeting the need for renewal after three successive presidential terms led by Kirchners.

"We need to build agreements with great generosity and patriotism where all Argentines who share these values contribute from their side," said Macri in a message on social media.

Pichetto was an ally of the center-right Carlos Menem, president from 1989-99, and then again of Nestor Kirchner from 2003-07.

But he fell out with Cristina Kirchner during her second term and switched allegiance to the opposition coalition led by Macri.

Menem and the center-left Kirchners are considered Peronists in Argentina despite their different political stances as they are members of the Justicialist Party founded by the late president Juan Peron (1946-55 and 1973-74).

The center-right Macri is seen as a liberal but his popularity plummeted last year after he implemented austerity measures agreed with the International Monetary Fund to secure a $56 billion bail-out loan.

Argentina suffered two currency crises last year and is in recession, with many ordinary Argentines having seen their spending power diminish substantially.

Cristina Kirchner, 66, also caused a shock last month by announcing she would stand for the vice-presidency rather than the top job, even though she is leading in opinion polls ahead of Macri.

She revealed that she asked her former cabinet chief Alberto Fernandez, a moderate, to run against Macri instead.

Kirchner is embroiled in 12 corruption cases linked to her time as president. The first of those to go to trial opened on May 21.

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