Javier Milei, a mercurial libertarian with far-right leanings, has been elected as the president of Argentina. He has promised to eradicate inflation and drastically reduce the size of the government, ushering in an uncertain and potentially chaotic future for the second largest economy in South America.
With almost 90% of ballots tallied, the individual who imitates Mick Jagger on television and has transitioned into a politician, often likened to Donald Trump, had obtained approximately 56% of the overall vote while Massa received 44.1%.
Sergio Massa, the finance minister of the centre-left, acknowledged his loss in a press conference on Sunday evening, conceding to his opponent Milei.
Massa stated that Argentinians have opted for a different direction. He also mentioned that he had contacted Milei to extend his congratulations on his win and will be stepping down from active involvement in politics.
“Unfortunately, these were not the desired outcomes and I have personally congratulated Javier Milei as he is the chosen president for the next four years by the majority of Argentines,” Massa stated.
The success of their 53-year-old leader was celebrated by the supporters of Pro-Milei, who view him as a forward-thinking economic leader capable of guiding Argentina through one of its most severe economic downturns in recent history.
“I am overjoyed,” expressed Francisco Jiménez, a 30-year-old delivery driver and supporter of Milei, residing in Villa Soldati, a lower-income neighborhood on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
Jiménez stated that he was aware that his decision to join the party at Milei’s campaign headquarters would likely result in a decline of Argentina’s peso against the dollar and further economic hardship. However, he expressed that he believed there was no other choice but to place trust in Milei, especially given the dire state of affairs.
Milei, who will start his term on December 10th, promised to eliminate the central bank and adopt the dollar as the national currency in order to address the economic crisis in Argentina. The country’s high poverty rate, with 40% of its 45 million citizens living below the poverty line, and inflation at over 140%, were key issues in his campaign. During the last presidential debate on Sunday, Milei confidently stated that he knows how to eradicate inflation, despite most experts declaring Massa as the winner.
Critics on the left were taken aback and disheartened by the victory of a well-known unpredictable individual whose extreme proposals include permitting the trade of organs, severing relationships with Argentina’s top trading allies Brazil and China, and shutting down over a dozen government departments.
Milei, a populist who denies the existence of climate change and is commonly referred to as “El Loco” (the Madman), has caused outrage among millions of Argentinians for his views on the dictatorship that ruled the country from 1976 to 1983. During this time, it is estimated that 30,000 people were killed by the military regime. His vice-presidential candidate, Victoria Villarruel, is a congresswoman with ultra-conservative beliefs who has downplayed the atrocities committed during the dictatorship.
“He is way more excessive and unstable than [Jair] Bolsonaro and Trump. So it’s highly unpredictable what this person could do [in power],” Federico Finchelstein, an Argentinian historian who studies the global far right, said on the eve of Sunday’s election.
According to Benjamin Gedan, the leader of the Wilson Centre’s Argentina Project, the magnitude of Milei’s triumph can be attributed to one word: desperation.
“Gedan stated that this vote shows a sense of desperation. Many Argentines intentionally voted against their economic interests because they understand that the current situation is disastrous. Additionally, there was no evidence to suggest that the current finance minister could realistically solve the issues. It is a risky move, but not entirely illogical.”
According to Gedan, the selection of a radical and inexperienced political outsider has thrown Argentina into unfamiliar territory.
“The main concern is that Argentina may collapse while attempting to drastically transform its economy. This could result in widespread social unrest, strikes by unions, potential political violence, and strain on democratic institutions. The potential consequences are quite grim if the leader aggressively pursues their extreme vision for the country.”