“Cristina Kirchner won” the first round of elections in Argentina according to Laura Ayerza de Castilho

Eleanor Sa-Carneiro

On Sunday 22 October, 34 million people cast their votes in a contentious election for the next President of Argentina. The three leading candidates were conservative Patricia Bullrich, current Minister of economy centre-left Sergio Massa, and libertarian economist Javier Milei. In a surprise outcome, Massa ended the night with 36.7% of the votes versus Milei with about around 30%.

“Unfortunately, Sergio Massa, the official candidate from the current government and Minister of Economy won, very unexpectedly, because with hyperinflation, as we have at the moment and all the corruption surrounded him” explains Laura.

Massa’s remarkable win over the libertarian wild card that is Javier Milei, or even Bullrich, took the country and observers by surprise. Since assuming his current position in August 2022, Argentina’s annual inflation surged from 79% to 138%. The value of a black-market American dollar, the currency of choice for Argentines’ savings, has escalated from approximately 300 pesos to around 1,000 pesos. The introduction of multiple exchange rates has added further complexities to the nation’s already overly complicated economic regulations.

With most voters’ foremost concern being inflation, it was perplexing for Laura and her peers that the overseer of Argentina’s deteriorating economy is looking increasingly likely to become the next president. Regarded as a centrist Peronist, Massa presented himself as someone capable of unifying the entire nation but, in reality, Massa’s surprise win suggests his tainted track record was overlooked to block the wild card that is Javier Milei from getting through to the second round, with voters choosing the establishment candidate.

His surprise win can also be attributed to the mobilising influence of the movement rallying behind him, as Laura spells out in The Qonversation, “At the end of the day, Cristina Kirchner won yesterday because it was her candidate, she was the one that supported him financially for the campaign”.

Milei was in first-place in a pre-election primary in August, having criticized politicians as a “privileged class” that extracts resources from hardworking Argentines, which voters gravitated towards as they saw their living standards decline under both Peronist and centre-right administrations. In an effort to regain their support, Peronist leaders activated their influence across the country. In the weeks leading up to the election, Massa distributed a bonus to pensioners in pesos and eliminated income tax for 99% of the workforce, measures that are estimated to have cost Argentina approximately 1% of the GDP.

When asked what next, Laura confesses she and her community were furious at the results and although they had initially thought they would never vote for the likes of Milei, “after calming down…we really have a very small opportunity of getting Kirchnerism and corruption out” which could lead her to vote for Milei and influence others to follow suit to rid the country of another disastrous term under Kirchnerism.

Laura Ayerza de Castilho knows Argentina’s options are tough ones, “I don’t like Milei. I don’t agree with many of his policies that are not very serious. But I think it’s an option, a new option, a crazy option, and if he’s surrounded by good people, maybe this is not going to be as terrible as with Massa”.

Watch the exciting episode on Qonversations.

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