Buenos Aires: President Cristina Kirchner was re-elected in the first round of Argentina's elections with a historic lead over her closest rival, according to exit polls cited by local media.

Supporters gathered in front of the pink presidential palace in Buenos Aires waving blue and white flags and letting off fireworks as the main TV channels announced a "landslide" victory for the center-left incumbent.

Exit polls showed Kirchner may have won as much as 55 percent of the vote, which would give her the strongest mandate for an Argentine President since the end of the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

The figure would also signify a record lead over the next candidate, Hermes Binner, reports said.

The first official results were due at 9:00 pm (0530IST). The 58-year-old Kirchner -- buoyed by strong economic growth and sympathy almost a year after the death of her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner -- had been expected to secure re-election against a fractured opposition.

The South American nation of 40 million has enjoyed strong growth, more jobs and rising pensions, as well as highly popular child support programs since Nestor Kirchner started a four-year term in 2003.

"He must be very happy that people are voting, wherever he is," Kirchner said, dressed in her traditional black, after voting in Rio Gallegos, Patagonia, 2,600 kilometers south of Buenos Aires.

Glamorous and known for her sharp tongue, Cristina Kirchner has made gains in recent months with a more consensual style, making efforts to improve relations with key sectors like industry and agriculture.

She needs just 40 percent to win if her nearest rival is more than 10 points behind, or 45 percent for an outright win.

The center-left politician also hopes to win back control of the Congress, where 130 lower house seats and 24 senate seats are at play.

Nestor Kirchner was credited with lifting the country out of its financial meltdown of 2001 by restructuring massive debts and promoting spending.

Cristina Kirchner has vowed to push forward with popular social programs as well as subsidies for transport and utilities, and dismissed unofficial figures of rampant inflation.

Kirchnerism belongs to the diverse and powerful Peronist movement of three-time former president Juan Peron and his populist second wife Evita.

Many Argentines see Kirchner's policies as the safest bet for the economy amid uncertainty in Europe and the US.

(Agencies)