Experts are predicting that Javier Milei’s resounding win in Argentina’s elections will attract prominent figures from the global far right, who are ecstatic about the potential for Buenos Aires to become a new hub for populist radicalism.
Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro celebrated after their Argentinian ally defeated his opponent, the Peronist finance minister Sergio Massa, by a margin of nearly 3 million votes in the presidential election on Sunday. The former US president expressed his belief that Milei would lead Argentina to greatness once again, while Brazil’s former president praised the victory as a triumph for integrity, progress, and liberty. Supporters of Bolsonaro and Milei anticipate that this win will be the first of three consecutive victories for right-wing leaders, paving the way for Trump and Bolsonaro to regain power in 2024 and 2026.
After winning the election, Milei stated in his initial interview on Monday that he plans to visit the United States and Israel. He has made a promise to relocate Argentina’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He will then be inaugurated on December 10th, along with his conservative vice-president, Victoria Villarruel.
Bolsonaro stated that he will be present at Milei’s inauguration in Buenos Aires and shared a friendly video call with the newly elected president of Argentina. “I am very pleased,” Bolsonaro expressed to the extreme libertarian economist. He also acknowledged the significant task ahead for Milei, saying it extends beyond the borders of Argentina. Milei responded with gratitude, saying “Thank you!”
Contrasting with Bolsonaro, who is a professional politician that portrayed himself as an outsider against the establishment to gain power in 2018, Milei is a genuine newcomer to the political world. He was born in Buenos Aires in 1970 and rose to fame as a profanity-laced economic commentator on Argentinian TV. In 2021, he was elected to congress representing his libertarian party Libertad Avanza (Freedom Advances). Milei’s unpredictable personality, profanity-filled on-air outbursts, and Britpop-inspired hairstyle have solidified his identity as ‘El Loco’ (The Madman).
Ultra-conservative figures from cities such as Bogotá, Santiago, Lisbon, and Madrid expressed their joy over Milei’s resounding win against centrist candidate Massa, with 14.47 million votes to Massa’s 11.51 million.
André Ventura, the leader of Portugal’s far-right Chega! (Enough!), celebrated Milei’s “struggle to defend society” and Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right League, sent his congratulations. Santiago Abascal, the leader of Spain’s far-right party Vox, said Milei had opened “a path of future and hope … for Argentines and all of Latin America”.
Katalin Novák, the president of Hungary, praised Milei for achieving a “significant triumph”.
In South America, conservative politician José Antonio Kast from Chile praised Milei for his “impressive victory” and stated, “The rebuilding of Argentina begins today.”
The Colombian senator María Fernanda Cabal called Milei’s victory a victory for “sanity, common sense [and] the hope of a rebirth for Argentina”. “Once again Latin America’s depredating left has been defeated.”
Sergio Moro, the Brazilian senator who was Jair Bolsonaro’s justice minister, tweeted: “Argentina has won two World Cups in a row.”
An academic from Argentina, Ariel Goldstein, who specializes in the study of Latin America’s populist right, predicted that Buenos Aires will serve as a gathering point for members of the worldwide far right movement. The city will also hold a conference for the Madrid Forum, a conservative summit focused on “anti-communism” that was established in 2020 by a think tank associated with Vox.
As accolades from the right poured in, it became evident just how significant Milei’s triumph was. The well-known TV personality turned political sensation defeated his Peronist opponent in 21 out of 23 provinces in Argentina and came incredibly close to winning in Buenos Aires, a traditional Peronist stronghold. Massa ultimately received 50.89% of the votes, narrowly beating out Milei’s 49.1%.
In Córdoba, the location of Milei’s last campaign event, the eccentric libertarian heavily criticized his opponent with a winning margin of 74.28% to 25.71%. In Mendoza, the outcome was 71.42% in favor of Milei and 28.57% for his rival.
Despite the excitement among right-wing individuals, experts warn against interpreting Milei’s victory as a significant shift towards conservatism in Argentinian politics.
According to Yanina Welp, a political scientist from Argentina’s Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy, certain cultural and identity-related topics may have influenced some individuals, but the majority of voters were primarily seeking to penalize the Peronist party for their role in causing one of the country’s most severe economic downturns in recent history.
“According to Welp, Massa holds the position of Minister of Economy and the nation is facing an inflation rate of approximately 150%, with nearly half of the population living in poverty. This makes it clear why the current state of affairs is being rejected. Welp explains that the vote is not necessarily in support of Milei or his program, but rather a rejection of the Peronists and the current administration.”
The CEO of consulting company Trespuntozero, Shila Vilker, was uncertain about the outcome of the election between Milei and Massa. As the finance minister, many voters held his government responsible for their financial struggles. Vilker was confident that Massa’s tactics of creating fear and painting Milei as an irrational authoritarian had not been successful.
According to Vilker, individuals chose to make a change. The concept of change was prioritized over staying the same, even if it meant overcoming fear of the familiar or the unfamiliar.
The strong longing for change was evident at the famous Obelisk in Buenos Aires on Sunday night, as a large crowd of Milei supporters came together to celebrate a new and highly unpredictable era in their country’s history.
“I believe individuals are feeling relieved that change is finally on the horizon. The alternative was not acceptable, and we require swift change,” remarked 19-year-old Justine Navarra Beber, who was attending her inaugural political demonstration.
Roman Neveira, a 23-year-old programmer waved a large blue-and-white Argentina flag as drivers cruised past shouting Milei’s slogan: “Viva la libertad, carajo!” (Long live, freedom, dammit!).
Neveira expressed her joy and relief, stating that Argentina has been facing a downward trend for quite some time. She finds hope in the fact that someone like Milei, who speaks without political jargon and has impressive ideas, has taken action.
The present circumstances are not easily remedied. We must practice patience, but I am eagerly anticipating their actions.
Marcelo Álvarez, another celebrant, enthusiastically hailed Milei’s victory as a just rejection of corrupt politicians who have destroyed countless lives. The 60-year-old proprietor of a small business expressed joy that their actions have ultimately led to success.
Despite this, Álvarez was uncertain about what the future might bring under Milei, a politically inexperienced and unpredictable figure. Milei’s proposals involve eliminating the central bank, adopting the U.S. dollar as the national currency, and implementing severe austerity measures that numerous economists worry could worsen Argentina’s ongoing crisis.
Álvarez predicted that either the situation would improve soon or it would become extremely chaotic as the street celebration continued. He expressed concern that their prediction may be incorrect and they would end up returning to this spot to protest again in two years.