Far-right political outsider Javier Milei on Sunday secured a thumping win in Argentina’s presidential elections after a fierce campaign, garnering 55.7% of the 99.4 votes tallied in the runoff, according to Argentina’s electoral authority.
Milei defeated his rival, the Argentine economy minister Sergio Massa, who managed to gain just over 44% votes in the presidential elections, held at a time when the country is struggling with rising inflation and poverty.
Milei promised a dramatic change in Argentina’s policies, including doing away with the central bank and cutting down government spending by closing some of the ministries. His aggressive rhetoric throughout the campaign, including carrying chainsaws in public rallies, drew parallels with ex-US President Donald Trump.
“Today begins the reconstruction of Argentina. Today begins the end of Argentina’s decline. The model of decadence has come to an end. There is no way back. Argentina will return to its place in the world that it should never have lost. We are going to work shoulder-to-shoulder with all nations of the free world, to help build a better world,” he said in his victory speech.
Five things to know about Milei
- Before his political career, Milei was the lead singer of a Rolling Stones cover band, has written several books and achieved fame as a media personality, where he became an economic pundit on Argentinian TV, according to the Guardian. Even then, he had a reputation for foul-mouthed outbursts and attention-grabbing declarations.
- Milei has been described as a populist, right-wing libertarian, social conservative and anti-establishment economist who opposes abortion rights and calls climate change a “lie of socialism”. He calls himself ‘anarcho-capitalist’ and was elected to Congress in 2021 for his party Libertad Avanza (Freedom Advances) amid widespread discontent over the country’s worst economic crisis in two decades.
- In his election campaign, Milei called for several ‘shock therapy’ changes, including legalisation of the sale of human organs, slashing social spending, loosening regulations on gun control and cutting ties with China and Brazil. He also promised to abolish the central bank and introduce the US dollar in the Argentinian economy. These proposed measures led to him being called the ‘Donald Trump of Argentina’.
- The President-elect grabbed attention for brandishing a chainsaw in public rallies, symbolising dramatic cuts that will help stabilise the crippled economy. His supporters chant the slogan “¡¡Qué se vayan todos!!” similar to Trump’s ‘Drain the Swamp’. During the vote, he also raised unsubstantiated allegations of potential voter fraud, like Trump and far-right former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
- Milei is unmarried and childless, although he has a girlfriend, the Argentinian actress Fatima Florezi. He is known for his love of dogs, owning four large mastiffs named after liberal economists. He was earlier reported to be a keen footballer.
Reactions to Milei’s win
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 Massa arguing that the government is working on it, it seems that it was not enough to keep most voters from endorsing his rival.
“Obviously the results are not what we expected. I have contacted Javier Milei to congratulate him. From tomorrow the responsibility of providing certainty belongs to Milei,” said Massa after conceding defeat.
Trump also took to his platform Truth Social to congratulate the Argentinian President-elect. “The whole world was watching! I am very proud of you. You will turn your country around and truly Make Argentina Great Again!” he said.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan also congratulated Milei said that the US looks forward to “building on our strong bilateral relationship based on our shared commitment to human rights, democratic values, and transparency”.
“I wish good luck and success to the new government. Argentina is a great country and deserves all our respect,” said Brazilian President Lula da Silva, who backed Massa and was criticised by Milei as an “angry communist”, according to BBC.
Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro said the result of the election was “sad” for Latin America. “Neoliberalism no longer has a proposal for society, it cannot respond to humanity’s current problems,” he posted on X.