Wild card Milei wins Argentina’s presidential elections

Argentine president-elect Javier Milei addresses supporters after winning Argentina's runoff presidential election, in Buenos Aires, Argentina November 19, 2023. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

Argentina handed Javier Milei a resounding victory on Sunday, opting for the outsider’s bold reform after enduring decades of economic stagnation. His election signals a profound overhaul of the country’s economy and institutions, prompted by public discontent over high inflation and record poverty rates under the centre-left Peronist coalition.

Javier Milei, the populist candidate who initially gained prominence as a television commentator, is often likened to former U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. He beat Sergio Massa, the Economy Minister from the long-standing Peronist party, a dominant presence in Argentine politics for decades, by a landslide with with 55.69% of the votes.

During Massa’s tenure, inflation surged to over 140%, and poverty rates have risen with Argentina tinkering on the brink of disaster. Embracing an anarcho-capitalist ideology, Milei advocates for a significant reduction in the size of the state and measures to curb inflation. In contrast, Massa cautioned against the potential adverse effects of such policy approaches.

The global response to the election of libertarian economist Javier Milei as the next president of Argentina has been varied.

In Washington, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan extended congratulations to the president-elect and praised the people of Argentina for conducting free and fair elections. He expressed anticipation for building on the strong bilateral relationship based on shared commitments to human rights, democratic values, and transparency.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva echoed the sentiment of respecting democracy as the voice of the people, wishing the new government success. However, not all neighboring leaders shared this conciliatory tone.

Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro, while congratulating Milei, expressed concerns about the victory of the extreme right in Argentina, emphasising the decision of its society. Chilean President Gabriel Boric pledged to work tirelessly to maintain unity and collaboration among sister nations.

On the international stage, European Council President Charles Michel thanked outgoing President Alberto Fernandez for excellent cooperation and looked forward to continuing collaboration. Russia, adopting a cautious stance, expressed hope for Argentina’s commitment to multipolarity and independent foreign policy.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy congratulated Milei on his victory and appreciated his clear stance in support of Ukraine, expressing eagerness to strengthen cooperation. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs hoped to continue friendly relations, emphasising their 50 year cooperation “of mutual respect”. China has been a major creditor for Argentina.

International Monetary Fund head Kristalina Georgieva extended congratulations to President-elect Javier Milei, expressing readiness to work closely on a plan for macroeconomic stability and inclusive growth. Former US President Donald Trump, drawing parallels between Milei and himself, congratulated Milei on a “great race” and expressed pride in the outcome.

At home, when Javier Milei proclaimed victory, strikingly calm in contrast to his antics during rallies, “Today, we begin the reconstruction of Argentina”. Amid a crowd of supporters who chanted “Argentina! Argentina!” as if the win was for the country, irrespective of the candidate, indicated that the anti-establishment vote superseded the wild card that is this outsider.

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