Argentine election closes with first lady expected to win

.SAN JUSTO, Argentina (AP) – Argentina’s first lady closed her presidential campaign Thursday bragging that her husband has worked to restore the country’s dignity after a deep economic crisis – and pledging to finish the job.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is expected to overwhelm 13 other candidates Sunday, possibly by a big enough margin to avoid a runoff. Much of her success is due to President Nestor Kirchner, who cheered at her side but didn’t speak at her final rally.

In a speech lasting less than 15 minutes, Fernandez spoke almost entirely about what Kirchner has accomplished, rather than about her own plans.

“Many of the dreams that we had, we have begun to achieve Ö I call on you this Sunday for the dreams that are unrealized,” she said. A few thousand supporters applauded under a cold drizzle.

Fernandez spoke repeatedly about “the dream of recovering Argentines’ dignity” after a 2002 financial crisis that destroyed savings and sent middle-class Argentines into poverty. Kirchner engineered a recovery that has delivered an annual growth rate of 8 percent, and Fernandez has pledged to deepen his policies.

She staged her rally at a wholesale vegetable market – the spot where Kirchner once closed his own campaign.

Elisa Carrio, a former lawmaker who is polling second, closed her campaign denouncing the “arrogance” of those in power, a clear reference to the Kirchners.

Former economy minister Roberto Lavagna, the other major candidate, skipped a final rally and spent Thursday in smaller appearances including one in which he donned a hard hat and climbed a ladder to inspect a low-income housing project. He also attacked Fernandez.

The latest poll showed Fernandez with 43 percent, compared with 23 percent for Carrio and 16 percent for Lavagna.