By Hernan Nessi
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentine President Mauricio Macri could edge out his main challenger in the event of an election runoff later this year, according to an opinion poll published on Thursday, one of the first since candidates officially announced their plans to run.
The poll from local firm Management & Fit suggested Macri would win by 2 percentage points in a head-to-head contest with Peronist rival Alberto Fernandez, whose running mate is populist former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
The report was based on 2,000 voters polled online, by telephone and in person. The narrow win, however, is less than the poll's margin of error of 2.2% and comes months before the first voting round on Oct. 27.
According to the poll, Macri and his running mate, moderate Peronist Miguel Angel Pichetto, would win 45% of the votes in an election runoff scenario, with the Fernandez ticket at 42.9%.
A second-round runoff would take place on Nov. 24 if no candidate wins at least 45% of the first-round vote in October, or a minimum of 40% of the vote with a margin of at least a 10 percentage points over second place.
The poll indicated that Fernandez would narrowly win with the electorate able to vote for the full range of candidates - mirroring the process of the first round of voting - but not by a large enough margin to avoid a runoff.
Alberto Fernandez and Cristina Fernandez are not related.
Macri, elected in 2015, has come under fire since last year amid a biting recession and economic turmoil that saw the peso currency tumble against the dollar and annual inflation climb above 50%, denting his popularity with voters.
However, the economy has shown some recent signs of improvement, with a stronger peso, inflation stabilizing, bond yields falling and local equities near a record high.
Alberto Fernandez has criticized Macri's policies and vowed to "rework" a huge financing deal with the International Monetary Fund for $56.3 billion that Macri agreed to last year.
The Fernandez ticket has yet to announce a detailed economic plan, though they have said they would look to tackle unemployment and the sharp slump in industrial production.
Investors, however, are wary of Cristina Fernandez - who is running for vice president - due to her past populist economic policies.
(Reporting by Hernan Nessi; writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)