Javier Milei, a libertarian populist outsider who has expressed admiration for Donald Trump, shocked Argentina’s political establishment on Sunday.
Javier Milei, a libertarian populist outsider who has expressed admiration for Donald Trump, shocked Argentina’s political establishment on Sunday by winning the most votes in the primary election, making him the frontrunner ahead of October’s general election.
- Milei scored around 30% of the vote in the all-party primary, ahead of both the governing left-wing coalition and the opposition center-right coalition. Milei’s victory was described as a “political earthquake” in Argentina media as most polls showed him trailing the leading leftist and center-right establishment candidates.
- In an election night speech, Milei derided the main parties of left and right as “the parasitic, corrupt, and useless political caste that exists in this country.”
- Argentina, the once-wealthy South American nation and Latin America’s third-largest economy, is struggling to combat soaring inflation and widespread poverty.
- Milei, a self-described “anarcho-capitalist,” wants to abolish Argentina’s central banking system to “end inflation,” and replace the peso with the U.S. dollar. He wants make it easier to own handguns and said the sale of human organs can be “one more market.” Milei has channeled Argentines’ fury at the political establishment, who he said “must be kicked in the ass.”
- The Argentine government devalued the peso by 18% and hiked the interest rate 21 points to a staggering 118% on Monday after Milei’s shock victory in Argentina’s unique all-party primary.
- Voters punished Union for the Homeland (Unión por la Patria, UP), the ruling left-wing populist coalition of President Alberto Fernández, who has presided over a crushing cost-of-living crisis that’s left 40% of Argentines in poverty amid 116% inflation.
- The unpopular Fernández and his vice president, former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK), both declined to seek the presidency amid the spiraling economic crisis. CFK, widely seen as the power behind the throne, survived an assassination attempt last year and was convicted of corruption charges and sentenced to six years in prison in December.
- The opposition center-right coalition Together for Change (Juntos por el Cambio, JxC) finished in second with 28%, an underwhelming performance for a coalition that governed Argentina as recently as 2019. Patricia Bullrich, a former security minister dubbed the “Argentine Iron Lady,” won the JxC nomination on the basis of her “tough,” conservative image.
- UP finished in third place with 27% of the vote, a stinging defeat for the Peronist movement that has dominated Argentine politics for decades. Economy Minister Sergio Massa, who was brought in to save Argentina’s basket-case economy, will carry the UP’s banner in October.
- The New York Times noted, “Polls had suggested that Mr. Milei’s support was at about 20 percent, and political analysts had predicted that his radical policy proposals — including abolishing the country’s central bank — would prevent him from attracting many more voters. But the vote on Sunday made clear that Mr. Milei now has a clear shot at leading Argentina.”
- CNN observed, “Voting in the primaries is obligatory for most adults and each person gets one vote, making it in effect a dress rehearsal for the October 22 general election and giving a clear indication of who is the favorite to win the presidency. The October election will be key for policy affecting Argentina’s huge farm sector, one of the world’s top exporters of soy, corn and beef, the peso currency and bonds, and ongoing talks over a $44 billion debt deal with the International Monetary Fund.”
- Milei is a unique figure in Argentine politics, as the Guardian reported. He’s campaigned by holding rock-style political rallies and is known for his mane of unkempt hair. He dedicates his victories to his dead dog, Conan, and his three living dogs.
- The Telegraph elaborated on Milei’s atypical background for a politician. He worked as a radical economist before entering politics and at various times had careers as a rock singer and a self-described “tantric sex instructor.”
- Milei explained his opposition to Argentina’s central bank in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. ““If the central bank emits money, it causes damage, if they move to control money, they cause damage,” Milei said. “The only way for it not to cause damage is to do nothing, so why would I want them? I’d close it because it’s a risk if it’s operating.”
- Breitbart reported the leftist Fernández government has imposed currency controls and steep import taxes to try and shore up the foundering economy, to little success.
© Dominic Moore, 2023