Radical libertarian Javier Milei seizes victory in Argentina presidential election
Radical Libertarian Javier Milei Wins Decisive Victory in Argentina Presidential Election
Table of Contents
The Shocking Upset
In a shocking upset, radical libertarian economist Javier Milei has emerged victorious in Argentina’s presidential election, promising “drastic” changes to the country’s economic strategy amid its worst crisis in two decades. With 55.7 percent of the vote, Milei defeated Economy Minister Sergio Massa of the center-left Peronist government, who garnered 44.3 percent.
Promises of Drastic Reforms
Milei, addressing supporters at the Libertador Hotel in Buenos Aires, declared, “Today is the end of Argentina’s decline. Today marks the end of the model of a pervasive state that impoverishes Argentinians.” He pledged rapid reforms to the country’s fragile economy, emphasizing the critical need for drastic changes and ruling out any room for gradualism.
Controversial Statements and Support
During his campaign, Milei courted controversy with his support for legalizing the sale of human organs, abolishing all gun laws, and his outspoken criticism of China, Pope Francis, and climate change. Despite this, he garnered support from former President Mauricio Macri and Patricia Bullrich, the candidate for the center-right Juntos por el Cambio (JxC) coalition.
Former US President Donald Trump and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni extended their congratulations to Milei, drawing parallels to Trump’s own rise to power and emphasizing their countries’ “common values.”
Milei’s victory represents a rebuke to the left-wing Peronist movement, which has dominated Argentine politics since the country’s return to democracy in 1983. However, his lack of leadership experience and controversial agenda have raised questions about his ability to deliver on his promises.
Economic Reforms and Challenges
Milei’s plan to “chainsaw” the state by cutting spending and dollarizing the economy to eradicate inflation faces skepticism from economists, who deem it unworkable in the short term. The victory has put pressure on the black market exchange rate, with implications for government bonds and equities.
Milei’s victory signals a significant change in Argentina’s political landscape, with potential implications for the country’s economic and social fabric. As he prepares to take office, the world watches with curiosity and concern as Argentina enters a new era under his leadership.
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Javier Milei, a radical libertarian economist and first-term congressman, has won a decisive victory in Argentina’s presidential election and promised “drastic” changes to the country’s economic strategy amid its worst crisis in two decades.
Milei won 55.7 percent of the vote, against 44.3 percent for Economy Minister Sergio Massa of the center-left Peronist government, with more than 99 percent of the votes counted.
“Today is the end of Argentina’s decline,” Milei told supporters at the Libertador Hotel in Buenos Aires on Sunday. “Today marks the end of the model of a pervasive state that impoverishes Argentinians.”
He promised rapid reforms to the country’s fragile economy. “I want you to understand that Argentina is in a critical situation. The changes our country needs are drastic. There is no room for gradualism.”
Massa announced that he had called on Milei to concede before the official results were published, adding that he had pledged to preserve the “economic, social, political and institutional functioning of Argentina” before Milei’s inauguration on December 10 .
Milei’s campaign focused on a promise to “chainsaw” the state – cutting spending by up to 15 percent of gross domestic product – and dollarizing the economy to eradicate inflation. ArgentinaAnnual price increases amounted to 142.7 percent in October.
After the results were announced, thousands of Milei’s supporters filled the area around the Obelisk Monument in Buenos Aires.
“I’ve been waiting for this all my life: no more Peronists, no more thefts, no more lies,” said Leonardo Estarone, a 57-year-old physiotherapist who was beating a drum in the street. “My children will be able to live in a free country.”
gracea self-described “anarcho-capitalist,” courted controversy during the campaign, voicing support for ideas such as legalizing the sale of human organs and abolishing all gun laws.
He also called China, Argentina’s largest trading partner, “murderous,” Argentina’s Pope Francis “a dirty leftist” and climate change “a socialist hoax.”
But Miles several returned of those statements in an attempt to convince centrist voters after the first round of voting in October, in which he came second after Massa. Milei was helped by the support of former President Mauricio Macri and Patricia Bullrich, the candidate for the center-right Juntos por el Cambio (JxC) coalition, which was eliminated in the first round.
Former US President Donald Trump – with whom Milei has often drawn comparisons – congratulated the libertarian outsider. “I am very proud of you,” Trump said in a post on his Truth Social platform. “You will change your country and make Argentina truly great again!”
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni called Milei to convey her best wishes for his presidency, her office said. Meloni, who spent years on the political margins of her own country before a wave of popularity fueled her election victory last year, emphasized the countries’ “common values.”
The victory for Milei, a former television commentator who became famous for his tirades against economic mismanagement and corruption among Argentina’s governing elite, is a rebuke to Massa’s Peronist movement, which has dominated politics since the country returned to democracy in 1983.
Over the past two decades, left-wing Peronist governments have doubled the size of the public sector and introduced expensive subsidies and strict regulation across the economy.
The Peronist model has faced unprecedented pressure this year spiral inflation. Massa has resorted to printing money to finance spending and tightened strict trade and exchange restrictions to protect scarce foreign exchange reserves.
Milei’s critics had argued that he and his running mate – Victoria Villarruel, a longtime defender of Argentina’s 1976-1983 dictatorship – pose a threat to democracy. Milei, who has no leadership experience, also faces questions about his ability to deliver on his agenda, analysts said.
Ana Iparraguirre, an Argentine political analyst and partner at Washington-based strategy firm GBAO, noted that Milei has won more votes than any candidate since 1983, albeit in a runoff election. “That result gives Milei a strong degree of legitimacy, but he has a huge institutional weakness,” she said. “He will have to anchor his reforms in popular support.”
Milei’s La Libertad Avanza (LLA) coalition, formed in 2021, will hold only seven of the 72 seats in Argentina’s Senate and fewer than 40 of the 257 in the lower house. It has no governors in any of Argentina’s 23 provinces.
While Macri has said JxC will support LLA on “reasonable” reforms, other coalition leaders remain sharp critics of Milei, who said in one of his first interviews on Monday that he planned to privatize as many state-owned companies as possible, including oil group YPF.
Most economists in Argentina say Milei’s flagship plan to replace the peso with the US dollar is unworkable in the short term, as Argentina has almost no dollars in its central bank and no access to international credit.
The official exchange rate is set at just over 350 pesos per dollar, but the black market rate is 900 pesos, causing widespread price distortions.
Fernando Marull, director of Buenos Aires-based economic consultancy FMyA, said Massa would likely try to avoid an official devaluation before leaving office, while Milei’s victory would put further pressure on the black market exchange rate.
“But for government bonds and equities, Milei’s victory will be positive, despite questions about its governance and its plans,” he said. “This puts an end to the idea that Argentina never changes – Argentina just voted for a big change.”
Additional reporting by Amy Kazmin in Rome
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