In a stunning upset, libertarian outsider and economist Javier Milei, representing the Liberty Advances party, secured a decisive victory over the center-left establishment candidate, Sergio Massa, in Argentina’s recent presidential election. With 99.3% of the votes tallied, Milei commanded 55.7%, leaving Massa with 44.3%. While Massa claimed the populous province of Buenos Aires by a narrow margin, Milei triumphed in the city itself and dominated the key northern provinces of Cordoba, Santa Fe, and Mendoza.
Milei, often likened to Donald Trump for his shared disdain of the political establishment, media, and socialism, faced initial challenges, securing only 30% of the vote in the first round, trailing Massa by nearly 7%. The key to his victory lay in consolidating support from first-round voters who favored the center-right candidate Patricia Bullrich. Predictions indicated Milei could win 70-75% of Bullrich supporters, and he seems to have surpassed these expectations.
Rampant issues like inflation, poverty, insecurity, and corruption within the Peronist party resonated strongly with voters, overshadowing Massa’s institutional advantages, which included vast state resources and the potent Peronist political machinery. Massa’s reliance on unionized workers, constituting 40% of Argentinian labor, proved insufficient to counter the widespread discontent.
Former President Mauricio Macri’s endorsement provided Milei with crucial support after the initial round, further boosting his campaign. In defeat, Massa graciously acknowledged Milei’s responsibility for addressing the nation’s economic challenges.
While the incumbent President Alberto Fernandez remained conspicuously absent for months, speculations arose that Massa wielded significant influence over economic and political decisions throughout the year.
In a country where 76% of the electorate participated, dissatisfaction with the long-dominant Peronist party, in power for three-quarters of a century, fueled the electorate’s desire for change. The fundamental question posed to voters was whether it was better to stick with the known or opt for something new, with the majority favoring the latter.
Despite concerns about Milei’s temperament, lack of governmental experience, and Trump-like outbursts, the people spoke resoundingly in favor of a fresh perspective. Milei’s charismatic campaign style, symbolized by his portrayal of a lion challenging the “useless and parasitic” political class, resonated particularly with the youth, who rallied behind him.
Despite the challenges ahead, as Milei and his allies in the Liberty Advances Party navigate the political landscape with limited representation in Congress, collaboration with the center-right Macri/Bullrich contingent and even the Peronists becomes imperative to advance policy objectives. Milei, armed with a keen sense of humor and sharp political acumen, now faces the formidable task of realizing his vision of “liberal libertarianism” for Argentina and the world.