Brandishing a chainsaw throughout his electoral campaign, the libertarian and self-proclaimed ‘anarcho-capitalist’ Javier Milei won the Argentine general election on 19th November 2023. Milei’s policies and personality cause controversy, so who is the television pundit turned politician?
Beating his rival Sergio Massa with 14.4 million votes to Massa’s 11.5 million, Milei will begin his 4-year mandate starting on 10th of December. After winning a majority of just 4 out of the twenty-four Argentine provinces, Massa conceded defeat at the Unión por la Patria‘s campaign house before the results were officially published.
The centre-left finance minister admits that “obviously these are not the results we hoped for, and I have spoken to Javier Milei to congratulate him because he’s the president that the majority of Argentines have chosen for the next four years”.
Massa has also hinted that he will retire from front-line politics.
The Peronist political movement has been pushed out of government
Milei’s victory has dismantled the left-wing political establishment, even ending Argentina’s 2-party political system. Created in the 1940s by Juan and Eva Perón, the Peronist political movement has been pushed out of government, despite ruling for sixteen out of the last twenty years. His campaign fell short despite Massa continuously appealing to voters’ fears surrounding Milei’s volatile character and risky economic policies.
Compared with Massa, and judging by the election result, Milei is seen as the lesser of two evils in Argentina, as the previous Peronist government could not provide economic stability.
The third-largest Latin American economy has almost reached inflation of 150%, and 40% of Argentina’s 45 million population is in poverty. Furthermore, the International Monetary Fund has rescued the Argentine state twenty-two times, with the most recent loan of $44 billion in 2018.
Milei used his platform […] to circulate conspiracy theories
Economist Sergio Armella believes, “it is indisputable that a swift change from the failed economic policies of the past is imperative. The accumulated economic imbalances have grown too large and must be addressed promptly”.
Nicknamed ‘El Loco’ and before running for president, Milei used his platform on television to circulate conspiracy theories around election fraud and Argentina’s economic problems.
Combined with his extravagant personality and viral TikTok videos, he targeted a younger audience who had grown up through economic hardship and strict Coronavirus lockdowns. Milei’s camp is also known to question the national consensus, which has lasted four decades, over the crimes of its 1976 to 1983 dictatorship, which killed around 30,000 people.
“The reconstruction of Argentina begins” [Milei]
The man with five cloned dogs, each named after a different right-wing economist, claims that with his new mandate, ‘“the reconstruction of Argentina begins”. Calling the result a “miracle” in his victory speech, he says that the result “marks the end of decadence in Argentina”.
He believes Argentina will return to being a “global power”, while alluding to those conspiracies he supported in his past where previous governments, “shared the state amonpoliticians and their friends”.
Although he abandoned his chainsaw to improve his public image, the symbol refers to his promise to decrease inflation by cutting public spending by 15% and privatising state companies, while reducing fuel and electricity subsidies.
Milei wants to abolish the central bank and adopt the US dollar as its official currency, to stop the country from printing more money like previous governments. If the dollar’s value continues to devalue, then inflation could rise with a risk of hyperinflation, which could return after three decades.
Aims to sever ties with China
Milei has no interest in joining the BRICS alliance, and aims to sever ties with China to help move towards privatising state-led companies like the oil industry.
According to economist Elizabeth Bacigalupo, this includes an estimated $10 billion in annual savings on energy imports through a new gas pipeline in Vaca Muerta. Also, this year, the drought in Argentina reduced its agricultural exports from $39 billion in 2022 to $23 billion. But with next year’s predictions, exports could be up to $40 billion.
The problem Milei faces is how fragmented the Argentine Congress is. The coalition he formed with the conservatives after the first round only has 10% of the Senate and 15% of the lower house, meaning he will have to negotiate with his political rivals to push through his complicated reforms.
Any delay in economic progress could lead to more inflation and social unrest.
Despite insults hurled at Brazil’s President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, by Milel throughout his campaign, he wished him support on social media, saying “democracy is the voice of the people and must always be respected”.
Donald Trump believes Milei will “Make Argentina Great Again”
Former US president Donald Trump believes Milei will ‘Make Argentina Great Again’. Businessman Elon Musk expressed a similar sentiment and posted, ‘prosperity is ahead for Argentina’.
Reactions from Milei supporters are varied, with voters desperate for change. A supporter named Michelle Chelsea in Buenos Aires says, “economic policies have led us to this situation. Today, more than half of the population has voted for a different option, and I hope that things will change a lot”.
A Food Service Worker, Alejandro Bravo, is hopeful for the future. “It’s an incredible joy. It’s the end of a never-ending decline, so to corrupt politicians, we say, “get lost”‘.
“We’ve had enough corruption, enough insecurity, enough inflation, enough poverty. We were very tired, we wanted something new, we wanted to see new faces”, states supporter Barbara Rubin.
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