Far-right populist Javier Milei on Sunday won Argentina’s presidential elections after a fiercely polarised election campaign, drawing connections to those of former US President Donald Trump, held amid soaring discontent in the country over increasing inflation and poverty.
Milei’s rival Sergio Massa conceded the run-off vote even before the official results were announced, CNN reported. “Milei is the president elected for the next 4 years,” Massa said after congratulating his opponent, the presidential candidate of the Liberty Advances coalition.
Provisional results showed that Milei won 55.8% of the votes as compared to Massa’s 44.2%, with 97.6% of votes counted so far in Sunday’s presidential elections. Milei’s victory is an extraordinary rise for the economist, who promised a dramatic shake-up to “break up with the status quo”.
What did Milei promise?
Milei was considered a political outsider and a former television personality, who vowed to ‘dollarise’ Argentina as inflation soared to record-high levels and poverty worsened while Massa held the post of Economy Minister. His aggressive campaigning included strong rhetoric and carrying chainsaws in rallies.
A social conservative, Milei opposes abortion rights and has called climate change a “lie of socialism.” He also promised to cut down on government spending by closing Argentina’s ministries of culture, education, and diversity, and by eliminating public subsidies. The far-right figure also aims to loose regulations on gun control and transfer authority over the penitentiary system from civilians to the military.
Milei proposed using public funds to support families who choose to educate their children privately and even privatising the health sector, which in Argentina has always been in public hands. However, some of his policies evoked a backlash, causing him to retract some of his comments – like when he called Pope Francis an ‘an envoy of Satan’.
Milei’s words resonated widely with Argentines angered by the current economic situation. His controversial campaign drew parallels with Trump, who congratulated Milei after his win in the presidential elections. “Make Argentina great again! I am very proud of you,” wrote the former US President on Truth Social.
Similar to the Trumpian slogan ‘Drain the swamp’, Milei’s supporters shout “¡¡Qué se vayan todos!!” which translates as “May they all leave!” – an expression of fury at politicians from both sides of the spectrum.
Milei’s unexpected political rise was also endorsed by former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, another controversial right-wing leader. However, left leaders like current Brazilian leader Lula da Silva and Colombia’s Gustavo Petro abandoned a tradition of non-intervention to back Massa in the election run-up.
The presidential elections
Although public polls showed Massa and Milei neck-to-neck, the former’s presidential race comes when Argentina’s inflation levels reached a painful height of 142% this year. Despite him arguing that the government is working on it, it seems that it was not enough to keep most voters from endorsing his rival.
During the vote, Milei also raised allegations of possible electoral fraud, much like Trump and Bolsonaro. Milei claimed without evidence that the first round of the hard-fought presidential elections was plagued by irregularities that affected the result.
“Hope shines again in South America. May these good winds reach the United States and Brazil so honesty, progress and liberty return to us all,” said Bolsonaro on X.