Shock Result: Radical Political Upstart Javier Milei Wins Argentine Presidency
© AP Photo / Nicolas AguileraJavier Milei, Liberty Advances coalition presidential candidate, acknowledges supporters during his closing campaign rally in Cordoba, Argentina, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. Milei will face Economy Minister Sergio Massa, the ruling party's candidate, in a runoff election on Nov. 19.
© AP Photo / Nicolas Aguilera
The outsider neoliberal candidate rose to prominence while promising to overturn the economic and social order in South America’s second-largest economy.
Right-wing populist candidate Javier Milei pulled off a surprising win in the final round of Argentina’s presidential election on Sunday, stunning establishment forces on all sides of the country’s political spectrum.
The result was made official just after 8:00 PM local time when candidate Sergio Massa conceded defeat, having viewed early results that showed a victory for Milei. Early numbers released 30 minutes later showed Milei with almost 56% of the vote with 89% of ballots counted.
“I want to tell you that obviously the results are not what we expected,” said Massa in a speech at his campaign headquarters in Buenos Aires. “I have contacted Milei to congratulate him because he is the president that the majority elected to represent them.”
Milei has yet to make an official statement as of the time of this article’s publication.
Despite his win, Milei had generated controversy in recent days by invoking the possibility of fraud in Sunday’s election in a complaint to a federal electoral judge.
“They changed the content of the ballot boxes and the documentation for others that they modified in favor of the ruling party and Sergio Massa, which considerably altered the electoral result,” read the complaint, referring to the first round of Argentina’s election process last month that saw Milei lose to Massa. Milei stunned observers when he won Argentina’s presidential primary election in August, though he claimed electoral fraud also robbed him of votes in that election.
The claims of fraud prompted an angry response from Argentine Minister of Security Aníbal Fernández, who claimed she would sue Milei and his Liberty Advances party.
“Today confirms one thing in the face of so much discussion: Argentina has a strong, solid and transparent democratic system that respects the results,” said Massa Sunday evening. He said he conceded the election “convinced that the most important thing… is that coexistence, dialogue and peace is the best path we can take.”
“I trust that tomorrow we can start working with Javier Milei to guarantee an orderly transition,” said current Argentine President Alberto Fernández in a post on the X platform.
The outspoken Milei has gained traction in Argentina as the country copes with annual inflation over 100% and rising poverty. After current president Fernández declined to seek reelection, many onlookers assumed his economy minister Sergio Massa would face an uphill battle to replace him.
But Massa defied polls during the first round of Argentina’s presidential election last month by defeating Milei by almost seven points. The result led many to believe that support for Massa from trade unions and Peronist political structures might lead him to victory even as his ruling party faced accusations of economic mismanagement.
And Milei also performed strongly on Sunday after having received the endorsement of the country’s major center-right political alliance, which placed third in August’s primary.
Milei and Massa put forth sharply contrasting economic visions. Argentina recently joined the BRICS economic block under current President Fernández. Massa pledged to solve the country’s economic crisis via cooperation with other BRICS countries, proposing to borrow money from the BRICS New Development Bank.
Milei, meanwhile, has suggested breaking relations with Brazil and China, among other countries, promising closer relations with Israel and the United States. He also wants to “dollarize” Argentina’s economy, adopting the US dollar as the country’s official currency over the Argentine Peso.
The 53-year-old has described himself as an “anarcho-capitalist” and a “libertarian,” although others have disputed the latter label, noting Milei’s conservative social views. He has proposed banning gay marriage and ending legal access to abortion in Argentina, which recently became only the third South American country to legalize the procedure in 2021.
Milei has also proposed abolishing Argentina’s central bank, in addition to numerous other arms of the government. Earlier this year, a video went viral on the TikTok platform of Milei ripping stickers representing various Argentine government ministries off a presentation board, shouting “afuera!” or “out!”
Sunday’s victory will send shockwaves throughout Latin America, which is currently dominated by center-left presidents in countries like Brazil, Chile, and Mexico.