By Nicolás Misculin
BUENOS AIRES, July 12 (Reuters) - Argentine polling firms warned they could have a hard time accurately predicting results of the upcoming presidential primaries due to low turnout and the emergence of surprise candidates, leaving the October election also uncertain.
In 2019, pollsters failed to forecast the wide margin with which President Alberto Fernandez led the primaries.
The primaries, set for Aug. 13, will determine who each political alliance puts forward to the October elections. They usually serve as an accurate indicator for the general vote.
As polls stand, center-right opposition alliance Together for Change (JxC) is seen currying the most votes at the primaries given the combined popularity of its two candidates, Patricia Bullrich and Horacio Rodriguez Larreta.
The ruling party's center-left Union for the Homeland (UP) currently is in second place with its top candidate, current Economy Minister Sergio Massa.
The economic crisis, however, which has seen annual inflation hit over 100%, could favor the Libertarian Party's Javier Milei, expected to rake in the "emotional vote," although polls do not forecast him winning the presidency.
Trespuntozero director Shila Vilker said a section of the vote remains "fluid and volatile", which could hamper predictability alongside low voter turnout. Regional elections held this year have shown lower turnout than previous votes.
Analogias director Marina Acosta estimated turnout at just 33% among opposition supporters and 32% for supporters of the ruling party, while Observatorio Electoral director Julio Burdman predicts a turnout of just 40% for the opposition and 28% for the ruling Peronists.
Burdman added that pollsters' accuracy could suffer from the uncertainty of the Milei vote.
"Society is much more heterogeneous and with weaker political identities, which makes it harder to use polls to predict votes," added Opina Argentina director Facundo Nejamkis.
Nejamkis said his firm had returned to household surveys, which many pollsters have abandoned due to high costs, to evaluate whether this works better.
In the 2019, Fernandez soared ahead with 48% in the primaries compared to 32% for then-President Mauricio Macri, whereas polls had predicted he would win with a margin of just 2 to 8 percentage points.
(Reporting by Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Sarah Morland; Editing by David Gregorio)
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