The Argentines on Sunday chose Javier Milei, a far-right libertarian who comparisons drawn to Donald J. Trumpas the next president, a shift to the right for a nation grappling with an economic crisis and a sign of the enduring strength of the global far right.
Mr. Milei, 53, an economist and former television personality with virtually no political experience, burst onto Argentina’s traditionally closed political scene with a brash style, a adoption of conspiracy theories and a series of extreme proposals that he says are necessary to overturn a broken economy and government.
Mr. Milei received 56 percent of the vote, with 95 percent of the ballots counted, beating Sergio Massa, Argentina’s center-left economy minister, who received 44 percent of the vote. Mr. Massa, 51, admitted his defeat even before the official results were published.
As president, Mr. Milei pledged to cut spending and taxes, close Argentina’s central bank and replace the national currency with the U.S. dollar. He also proposed banning abortion, easing gun regulations and only considering countries that want them.fight against socialism» like Argentina’s allies, often naming the United States and Israel as examples.
Mr. Milei’s election is a victory for the global far-right movement that grew stronger with the election of Mr. Trump and similar politicians, such as Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, but has weakened in recent times years due to their electoral defeats. Mr Bolsonaro and Spain’s far-right Vox party applauded Mr Milei; former Fox News host Tucker Carlson traveled to Argentina to interview him; and billionaire Elon Musk on Sunday said that after Mr. Milei’s victory, “prosperity is coming to Argentina.”
Yet some political analysts say Mr. Milei’s rise reflects many Argentines’ desperate desire for change rather than support for his far-right ideology.
Some voters share his extreme views, “but there are others who voted for him because they see in Milei a way of expressing their frustration in the face of an economic and political reality that has been ugly to them for a long time.” Carlos said. Pagni, history professor and political columnist at La Nación, one of Argentina’s largest newspapers.
“They don’t look at Milei’s ideology,” he added. “They see that Milei is angry and Milei is offering a break.”
Mr. Milei accepted the comparisons with Mr. Trump and Mr. Bolsonaro. Although he has obvious differences from the other two politicians, including his strong adherence to a libertarian ideology, Mr. Milei’s political style resembles them in many ways.
For many observers, the most worrying parallel was Mr. Milei’s Preemptive Election Fraud Claims. He has openly questioned the results of the 2020 US elections and the 2022 Brazilian elections, and has claimed for months, with little evidence, that Argentina’s elections were rigged against him. He warned that if he lost on Sunday, it might be because the vote had been stolen. After signs emerged on Sunday that he would win, Mr. Milei’s campaign told reporters that the election was clean.
Mr. Milei also downplayed the atrocities committed by Argentina’s bloody military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983, calling them “excesses” as part of a “war” against leftists. He told a national debate that the number of people killed under the dictatorship was far lower than widely accepted estimates, which could be as high as 30,000 people.
This rhetoric, coupled with his warnings about rigged elections, has raised widespread concerns in Argentina about its potential impact on national democracy. Before the vote, more than 20 Argentine personalities registered and released a video promoting democratic values.
Mr. Milei will now face a major challenge that virtually no other Argentine president has been able to solve in decades: the Argentine economy.
Failed economic policies have long left Argentina with one of the most perpetually unstable economies in the world, and yet even by its standards the country is in one of its worst crises.
Annual inflation has exceeded 140 percent – the third highest rate in the world – more than two in five Argentines now live in poverty and the value of the Argentine currency has fallen. In April 2020, at the start of the pandemic, 1 dollar bought 80 pesos, using an unofficial rate based on the market’s valuation of the currency. This week, $1 bought almost 1,000 pesos.
Mr. Milei argued that the solution lies in a radical break with old policies. His campaign centered on promises to “blow up” the central bank and dollarize the economy, illustrated by him breaking miniature versions of the bank and holding up giant $100 bills with his face on them.
His other campaign accessory was a chainsaw that he wielded at rallies. The saw represented the deep cuts he wants to impose on the government, notably by reducing taxes; reduce regulations; privatize state industries; reduce the number of federal ministries from 18 to eight; moving public education toward a voucher-based system and public health care toward an insurance-based system; and reduce federal spending by up to 15 percent of Argentina’s gross domestic product.
Economists and political analysts said Mr. Milei lacked the political support and economic conditions needed to achieve such a radical change. His nascent party, Liberty Advances, holds only seven of 72 seats in Argentina’s Senate and 38 of 257 in the House.
Mr. Milei recently softened some proposals after backlash.
Yet for many Argentines, Mr. Milei will be a welcome break from Peronism, the political movement that has held the presidency for 16 of the past 20 years, implementing mostly left-wing policies during that period that pushed the land of boom to bust.
After recent economic decline and a series of corruption scandals, many voters were desperate for change, even despite doubts about Mr. Milei’s eccentric personality and pugnacious temperament.
“I can’t keep voting for corruption,” said Silvana Cavalleri, 58, a real estate agent, after saying she had reluctantly voted for Mr. Milei. “I hope Milei is at least less corrupt.” Not that I think he isn’t at all.
Mr. Milei weathered criticism and questions over a variety of unusual behavior during the campaign, including his harsh attacks on the Pope, his clashes with Taylor Swift fans, his claims to be a tantric sex guru, his disguise as a libertarian superhero and his close relationship with his Mastiff dogs who are named after conservative economists – and are also all clones.
Some voters were also turned off by his past outbursts and extreme comments during his years working as a pundit and television personality.
In a clip from years ago Widely shared during the campaign, Mr Milei claims the government is corrupt and stealing from average Argentines, saying: “The state is a pedophile in a nursery school, with children chained and bathed in Vaseline . »
Mr. Milei’s running mate, Victoria Villarruel, was also criticized for her pro-dictatorship comments. Ms. Villarruel, from an Argentine military family, runs an organization that recognizes victims of attacks carried out by left-wing guerrillas before the military took power.
She and Mr. Milei claimed that 8,000 people had disappeared during the dictatorship, while documents showed that even the Argentine military believed 22,000 people were missing only two years later.
After voting at a school on Sunday, Ms. Villarruel criticized a nearby mural dedicated to the 30,000 people believed to have been killed during the dictatorship. “Doing graffiti for 30,000 people is like going to a cemetery and painting Barney Bear,” she said, referring to a cartoon character.
Mr Milei will be sworn in as president on December 10, the 40th anniversary of the inauguration of the first democratically elected president after the fall of the military dictatorship.
Nathalie Alcoba And Lucia Cholakian Herrera reports contributed.