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Argentine voters deliver a sharp blow to the Kirchners

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's Peronist Party lost power in both houses of Congress in Sunday's legislative elections. Her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner, lost in his bid for a congressional seat.

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Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner suffered a blow to her political project Sunday night, with her Peronist Party losing power in both houses of Congress.

Even more devastating, her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner, conceded defeat in his bid for a congressional seat, a move that was intended to buoy support for the first couple but instead backfired.

The new Congress does not take office until December, giving President Fernandez time to push through her policies, but the results of the election might force her into a more conciliatory position. It also changes the balance of power for Mr. Kirchner, who has dominated the political scene in Argentina for the past six years and had been expected to run for president again in 2011.

"It closes the chapter of the Kirchners," says Riordan Roett, the director of the Latin American Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies in Washington.

End of an era?

Kirchner, who headed a ticket of candidates in the crucial province of Buenos Aires, where more than 30 percent of eligible voters live, acknowledged he lost early Monday with 32.2 percent of the vote, behind Francisco de Narvaez, who garnered 34.5 percent.

Mr. De Narvaez is also a Peronist but part of a growing number of dissidents. Kirchner's loss opens space for new leadership within the party after Kirchner, who is widely seen as a powerful force in his wife's government, has dominated leadership for years.

"The bad politics of old has been defeated," De Narvaez said at his campaign headquarters.

Ready for change, but what kind?

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