Javier Milei, a unpredictable and potentially turbulent figure on the far-right libertarian spectrum, has been elected as the president of Argentina. He has made bold promises to eliminate inflation and drastically reduce the size of the government. This decision has thrown the country’s second largest economy into a state of uncertainty.
After tallying over 99% of the votes, the candidate known for impersonating Mick Jagger on TV and now a politician, who is frequently likened to Donald Trump, has received 55.69% of the vote, while his opponent, the finance minister from the center-left, Sergio Massa, received 44.3%.
“Argentina’s reconstruction starts now. This is a momentous evening for our country,” exclaimed Milei to his enthusiastic followers at his campaign headquarters in Buenos Aires. He described his win as a “miracle”.
Milei pledged to make significant alterations in order to address Argentina’s dire situation of high inflation and widespread poverty. He also conveyed a message to the global community: “Argentina will reclaim its rightful position in the world, which should have never been lost.”
Earlier, Massa accepted defeat after receiving 11.5 million votes compared to Milei’s 14.4 million.
Massa stated that the Argentinians have elected a different direction. He also mentioned that he had contacted Milei to extend his congratulations on his win and implied that he may step back from active involvement in politics.
“Unfortunately, these are not the desired outcomes. I have personally congratulated Javier Milei as he has been elected as the president for the next four years by the majority of Argentines,” stated Massa. His Peronist party has been in power for 16 out of the last 20 years.
Supporters of Milei celebrated the success of their 53-year-old leader, whom they view as a forward-thinking economic expert capable of guiding Argentina through one of its most severe economic downturns in recent history.
Francisco Jiménez, a 30-year-old delivery driver and supporter of Milei from the working-class neighborhood of Villa Soldati in Buenos Aires, expressed his joy by saying, “I am very, very, very happy.”
Jiménez expressed his confidence in joining the party at Milei’s campaign headquarters despite knowing that the outcome would most likely result in a decline of Argentina’s peso against the dollar and further economic struggles. He stated that there is no alternative but to have faith in the candidate, especially given the current dire circumstances.
Prior to his inauguration on 10 December, Milei made a promise during his campaign to eliminate the central bank and switch to a dollarized economy as a solution to the current financial crisis in Argentina. This crisis has resulted in 40% of the country’s 45 million citizens living in poverty and an inflation rate exceeding 140%. During the final presidential debate last Sunday, Milei confidently declared that he knows how to eradicate the issue of inflation, despite many experts believing that Massa had won.
Milei’s victory was celebrated by other big beasts of the global far-right including Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro, who had championed his campaign and has promised to attend his inauguration. “Hope is sparkling in South America once again,” Bolsonaro wrote on X, hailing what he called a victory for “honesty, progress and freedom”.
“I am extremely proud of you, the whole world was watching! You will successfully turn your country around and truly make Argentina great again.”
X’s owner, Elon Musk, also rejoiced in his victory and shared the message: “Argentina has a bright future ahead.”
The president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has been repeatedly insulted by Milei as a corrupt “communist,” acknowledged Milei’s win in a lackluster social media post. Lula stated, “Democracy is the voice of the people and must always be honored,” without specifically naming Milei. He also added, “I wish the new government luck and success. Argentina is a wonderful country and should be treated with utmost respect.”
Gustavo Petro, the leftist president of Colombia, expressed his disappointment with the election results in Argentina, stating that it was a victory for the extreme right in Latin America. In a sarcastic response to Petro’s comment, Nayib Bukele, the right-wing president of El Salvador, posted, “Can you say it without shedding tears?”
The election of a controversial figure, who has proposed extreme policies such as legalizing organ sales and severing relations with major trade partners, Brazil and China, and shutting down several government departments, was met with surprise and disappointment by Milei’s political adversaries on the left.
Milei, a populist who denies the existence of climate change and goes by the moniker “El Loco” (the Madman), has sparked outrage among millions of Argentinians by challenging the long-held belief that the 1976-83 dictatorship was responsible for the deaths of approximately 30,000 people. His choice for vice president is Victoria Villarruel, a conservative member of congress who has downplayed the atrocities committed during the dictatorship.
According to Federico Finchelstein, an Argentinian historian who specializes in studying the global far right, this individual is even more extreme and unpredictable than [Jair] Bolsonaro and Trump. Therefore, it is difficult to anticipate their actions if they were to hold power, as stated on the day before Sunday’s election.
Benjamin Gedan, the head of the Wilson Centre’s Argentina Project, said he believed one word explained the scale of Milei’s victory: desperation.
“This vote just reeks of desperation. A lot of Argentines voted knowingly against their economic interests because they recognise that the status quo is catastrophic. And there was no reason to believe that the current finance minister could plausibly be the answer,” Gedan said. “It’s a huge gamble but not a completely irrational one.”
Gedan stated that the selection of an inexperienced and radical political outsider caused Argentina to enter unfamiliar territory.
The main concern is that Argentina could collapse while trying to drastically change its economy. This could result in widespread social turmoil, strikes led by unions, possible political violence, and strain on democratic institutions. If the leader follows through with their extreme plans for Argentina, it could lead to a bleak situation.
Following a period of intense emotions, the streets of Buenos Aires were filled with a cacophony of sounds as word of the outcome spread and the people responded with a blend of happiness, worry, and frustration.
“Let’s go Milei, the revolution is on its way!” a woman exclaimed from a balcony in Recoleta, close to the headquarters of the newly-elected president’s campaign.
A man’s voice exclaimed, denouncing the human rights abuses committed during Argentina’s military rule. He declared that Milei represents the dictatorship.