Javier Milei vs. Sergio Massa in Argentina’s Election: What to Know


For months, Argentina has been consumed by a single query.

Will Javier Milei — a far-right libertarian whose brash fashion and embrace of conspiracy theories have drawn comparisons to former President Donald J. Trump — be its subsequent president?

On Sunday, voters will lastly get to resolve.

Mr. Milei, an economist and former tv pundit, is dealing with off in opposition to Sergio Massa, Argentina’s center-left economic system minister, in a runoff election. Mr. Massa led the election’s first spherical final month, with 37 p.c to Mr. Milei’s 30 p.c. However polls recommend Sunday’s race is a lifeless warmth.

The backdrop to the competition has been Argentina’s worst financial disaster in a long time, with annual inflation surpassing 140 p.c, behind solely Lebanon and Venezuela globally. Two in 5 Argentines now dwell in poverty. The boys have supplied starkly completely different visions on the right way to reverse the financial morass within the nation of 46 million — a feat that no Argentine chief has been in a position to accomplish for many years.

However the financial debate has been overshadowed by the rise of Mr. Milei, his eccentric character and his radical concepts to remake the nation.

With Mr. Milei now on the verge of the presidency, Sunday’s vote is a check of energy for the worldwide far-right motion. Mr. Milei has welcomed the comparisons to Mr. Trump, in addition to to Brazil’s former right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro. And, like them, he has warned that if he loses, it could be as a result of the election was stolen.

Right here’s what that you must find out about Argentina’s election.

Earlier than Mr. Milei, 53, was a presidential candidate, he was a frontman of a Rolling Stones cowl band, an economist with starkly libertarian views and a tv pundit recognized for his fiery outbursts. In 2021, he was elected to Argentina’s Congress.

Mr. Milei has centered his marketing campaign on an financial overhaul that may contain slashing each spending and taxes, closing Argentina’s central financial institution and changing its forex with the U.S. greenback. Economists and political analysts are skeptical he would have the financial situations or political coalition crucial to drag off such excessive change.

On the marketing campaign path, Mr. Milei has depicted his opponent, Mr. Massa, because the chief of a shadowy “caste” of political elites who’re stealing from common Argentines — and himself because the fearless outsider who will take them on. His marketing campaign occasions depict him as a roaring lion as his supporters chant, “The caste is afraid.”

But his eccentric character and pugnacious politics have usually attracted essentially the most consideration. There have been his harsh assaults in opposition to the pope, his clashes with Taylor Swift followers, his claims of being a tantric-sex guru, his assertion that local weather change is a socialist plot, his dressing up as a libertarian superhero and his shut relationship together with his Mastiff canines which are named for conservative economists — and are additionally all clones.

Mr. Massa, 51, has spent his total profession in politics, together with as a mayor, congressman and a cupboard chief to a president, swinging from the correct to the left and incomes a repute as a pragmatist.

That’s the similar method he has taken through the presidential marketing campaign, touting his potential to run the federal government, work with trade and construct a political coalition to repair the economic system.

However to many Argentines, he has little credibility on financial issues. He has overseen Argentina’s economic system for the previous 16 months, simply because it has cratered. Inflation has soared, and the worth of the Argentine peso has plummeted. In July 2022, when Mr. Massa was appointed economic system minister, $1 purchased about 300 pesos on the primary unofficial market. Now $1 buys 950 pesos.

Argentina’s woes hardly started with Mr. Massa. For many years, failed financial insurance policies, together with excessive authorities spending and a protectionist method to commerce, have left Argentina with one of many world’s most perpetually unstable economies, regardless of its plentiful pure assets.

Mr. Massa blamed a report drought and $44 billion in worldwide debt for hurting so many Argentines throughout his run as economic system minister. “We misplaced half of our agricultural exports” because of the drought, he stated in an interview, “so the primary problem was to maintain the extent of exercise and employment.”

Argentina’s economic system shrank by 4.9 p.c within the second quarter of this 12 months, the newest information obtainable, the primary decline after 9 consecutive quarters of development, by which the nation rebounded from the pandemic. Unemployment has additionally principally fallen in latest quarters, down to six.2 p.c by the tip of June.

Mr. Milei’s platform is centered on his pledges to shut the central financial institution and dollarize the economic system. Through the marketing campaign, Mr. Milei would smash miniature variations of the central financial institution and maintain aloft large $100 payments together with his face on it.

Mr. Milei additionally had one other marketing campaign prop: a series noticed that he would wave round at rallies. The noticed represented the deep cuts he’s proposing to authorities, together with reducing taxes; slashing laws; privatizing state industries; decreasing the variety of federal ministries to eight from 18; shifting public training to a voucher-based system and public well being care to insurance-based; and chopping federal spending by as much as 15 p.c of Argentina’s gross home product. He has lately softened some proposals after blowback.

He additionally has stated he wish to ban abortion, loosen gun laws and largely lower relations with any nation beside the USA and Israel.

In an interview, Mr. Massa referred to as Mr. Milei’s proposals “suicidal” for the nation.

His plans for change are way more modest. Mr. Massa stated he desires to extend manufacturing of oil, gasoline and lithium; simplify the tax system; and cut back total spending whereas growing spending on training and job coaching. “Austerity,” he stated.

His requires austerity, nevertheless, have been undercut by his strikes in latest months to chop taxes, give bonuses to staff and launch more cash to the poor. Critics have referred to as the insurance policies irresponsible patronage throughout an financial disaster.

For months, Mr. Milei has claimed, with out proof, that he was robbed of greater than 1,000,000 votes in a main election in August, or 5 p.c of the overall. He has additionally stated that the primary spherical of the overall election final month was rigged in opposition to him.

He has argued that fraudsters are stealing and damaging his ballots at polling stations, stopping his supporters from voting for him. (In Argentina, residents vote by inserting a paper poll of their most well-liked candidate into an envelope and dropping the sealed envelope right into a field. Campaigns distribute ballots with their candidate’s identify to polling stations.)

Election officers dispute Mr. Milei’s claims, and his marketing campaign has supplied little proof. His marketing campaign’s authorized director stated in an interview that he had direct data of solely 10 to fifteen written complaints from voters.

This previous week, Mr. Milei’s marketing campaign escalated its combat, submitting a doc with a federal choose that claimed “colossal fraud,” asserting that Argentine officers modified votes for Mr. Milei to Mr. Massa. The marketing campaign cited nameless sources.

Mr. Milei has overtly questioned the outcomes of the 2020 U.S. election and the 2022 Brazil election, which have been dogged by baseless claims of fraud that led to violent assaults on these nations’ capitols.

Now, Argentines are bracing for what may occur if Mr. Milei loses. His supporters have referred to as for protests outdoors the election company’s headquarters after the polls shut on Sunday.

On Friday, Mr. Milei stated Mr. Massa’s incumbent get together “is exhibiting very impolite indicators of desperation” and would most certainly attempt to cling to energy if Mr. Milei wins. In that situation, he added, his authorities “will apply justice with all due drive.”

Lucía Cholakian Herrera and Natalie Alcoba contributed reporting.


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