UPDATE 2-Argentina's Fernandez loses clout in midterm election
BUENOS AIRES, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Argentine leader Cristina Fernandez's allies took a beating in Sunday's midterm congressional election, killing any chance of a constitutional changes to allow her a third term and kicking off a succession struggle ahead of the 2015 presidential vote.
Voters went to the polls under sunny Southern Hemisphere skies to choose half of the lower house of Congress and a third of the Senate in Sunday's vote, marking 30 years of democracy following a 1976-1983 military dictatorship.
Re-elected in 2011 on promises of increasing state control in Latin America's No. 3 economy, Fernandez's political coattails were trimmed by inflation, clocked by private analysts at 25 percent, while heavy-handed currency controls and falling central bank reserves have dented confidence.
Candidates sponsored by Argentine opposition leader Sergio Massa won the House of Deputies' midterm by a 10-percentage-point margin in the key province of Buenos Aires, according to exit poll announced on local television.
About the size of Italy, Buenos Aires province is home to 40 percent of Argentina's population and most of the country's agricultural output.
Massa, the mayor of the affluent Buenos Aires town of Tigre, headed his own list of candidates for Congress and is seen as a possible, business-friendly presidential contender in 2015.
"Tomorrow, we start with a new political map," said Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri, another possible presidential candidate who promises a shift toward market-friendly policies.
Other exit polls announced on television showed Fernandez's candidates losing in key provinces around the country.
Some legislators had said they wanted a constitutional amendment to allow the ailing president to run for a third term. But the poor showing by Fernandez's branch of the Peronist party in Sunday's mid-term dashed those hopes once and for all.
To push through the legislation, they would need two-thirds support in both houses. If the exit polls prove accurate, Fernandez would not come close to achieving that level of support for another run for the presidency.
Fernandez was unable to campaign for her congressional candidates since an Oct. 8 operation to remove blood that pooled on her brain after she fell and hurt her head in August. She is expected to continue convalescing for another few weeks.
The surgery marked the latest in a series of health issues for the 60-year-old leader, including low blood pressure and a thyroid tumor that also was surgically removed.