Argentina’s political landscape was shaken on Sunday by the unexpected performance of Javier Milei, a far-right populist and libertarian economist, who emerged as the top vote-getter in the primary election to choose presidential candidates for the October general election.
Milei Leads with 30.5% of the Vote
According to unofficial results, with some 90 percent of ballots counted, Milei and his party Liberty Advances had 30.5 percent of the vote, a share far higher than predicted by most polls. He was followed by the main conservative opposition bloc United for Change, with 28 percent, and the ruling center-left Peronist coalition Union for the Homeland, with 27 percent.
The primary election, which is mandatory for most adults and each person gets one vote, is seen as a dress rehearsal for the October 22 general election and gives a clear indication of who is the favorite to win the presidency. Milei, who is currently a lawmaker in the lower house of Argentina’s Congress, did not have a competitor in the presidential primary of his party.
Milei Appeals to Disillusioned Voters
Milei’s surprising rise reflects the widespread discontent and frustration among Argentines, who are facing a severe economic crisis, with inflation over 100 percent, poverty affecting four in 10 people, and a rapidly depreciating currency. Milei has attracted support by calling for radical changes in the country’s economic and political system, such as replacing the peso with the U.S. dollar, abolishing the Central Bank, privatizing state-owned companies, and reducing taxes and public spending.
Milei is also known for his controversial and provocative statements on various social and cultural issues. He is an admirer of former U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. He has said that climate change is a lie, that sex education is a ploy to destroy the family, that selling human organs should be legal, and that owning handguns should be easier.
Milei Celebrates His Victory and Challenges the Political Establishment
At his electoral headquarters in downtown Buenos Aires, Milei celebrated his victory with his supporters, who cheered and chanted his name. He gave a defiant speech, in which he vowed to end “the parasitic, corrupt and useless political caste that exists in this country” and to rebuild Argentina with “liberty and prosperity” .
“We are the true opposition,” Milei said. “A different Argentina is impossible with the same old things that have always failed.” He also challenged his rivals from the Peronist and conservative blocs, saying that they were afraid of him and his movement. “Do you want to scare them a little more?” he asked his followers.
Milei’s strong showing has sent shockwaves across Argentina’s political spectrum, as well as its financial markets and media. Analysts have warned that his radical proposals could destabilize the economy and increase social polarization. His opponents have criticized him for his aggressive and divisive rhetoric, as well as his lack of experience and credibility.
However, Milei has also tapped into a growing segment of voters who are disillusioned with the traditional parties and their policies, especially among young people. He has used social media and alternative media platforms to spread his message and connect with his followers. He has also cultivated a charismatic and rebellious image, often wearing sunglasses, leather jackets, and long hair.
Milei will now face off against the winners of the other primaries in the October election, where he hopes to capitalize on his momentum and become Argentina’s next president.
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