BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Argentina’s Economy Minister Sergio Massa conceded defeat to populist Javier Milei in Sunday’s fiercely polarized presidential runoff, even before the country’s electoral authority released the official results.
Massa congratulated his opponent, a right-wing economist who has promised dramatic restructuring for many of the country’s institutions, and welcomed frequent comparisons of him to former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Immediately after Massa’s concession speech, the Argentine electoral authority published partial results: with 86.6% of the votes counted, Milei had 55.95% and Massa 44.04%.
With a Milei victory, the country will shift to the right amid discontent over skyrocketing inflation and growing poverty, and empower a rookie lawmaker who describes himself as an anarcho-capitalist and got his start as a television host criticizing what called “political politics.” breed.”
Inflation has soared above 140% and poverty has worsened while Massa has remained in office. Milei, a self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalist, has proposed reducing the size of the state and controlling inflation, while the government minister he was running against warned people about the negative impacts of such policies. The choice forced many to decide which of the two they considered the least bad option.
Milei’s speeches resonated widely among Argentines angry at their struggle to make ends meet, particularly young men.
“Money covers less every day. “I am a qualified person and my salary is not enough for anything,” Esteban Medina, a 26-year-old physical therapist from Ezeiza, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, told The Associated Press on the sidelines of a Milei rally. earlier this week.
Massa, as one of the most prominent figures in a deeply unpopular administration, was once considered to have little chance of victory. But he managed to mobilize the networks of his Peronist party and achieved a decisive first place in the first round of voting.
His campaign warned Argentines that his libertarian opponent’s plan to eliminate key ministries and otherwise drastically reduce the state would threaten public services, including health and education, and welfare programs that many depend on. Massa also drew attention to his opponent’s often aggressive rhetoric and openly questioned his mental acuity; Before the first round, Milei sometimes wore a chainsaw speeding at rallies.
Speaking after casting her vote at the majestic Law School of the University of Buenos Aires, Jenifer Pío, 36, told the AP that she fears that a Milei victory would jeopardize the return of dictatorship.
“Milei doesn’t have the slightest idea how to govern,” said Pío, a housewife. “It’s not bad for her to be proud, but she would need to have a little more stability. She is emotionally and psychologically unstable. “He is not feeling well.”
Ana Iparraguirre, a partner at polling firm GBAO Strategies, said Massa’s “only chance to win this election when people want change… is to make this election a referendum on whether Milei is fit to be president or not.”
“We are beginning a new chapter in Argentina, and this chapter requires not only good will, intelligence and capacity but, above all, dialogue and the consensus necessary for our country to travel a much more virtuous path in the future,” Massa told the journalists on Sunday. after casting his vote.
Milei accused Massa and his allies of waging a “campaign of fear” and backtracked on some of his most controversial proposals, such as making gun control more flexible. In his latest campaign ad, Milei looks into the camera and assures voters that he has no plans to privatize education or health care.
“We did a great job despite the fear campaign and all the dirty tactics they used against us,” Milei told reporters after voting amid a large security operation as dozens of supporters and journalists gathered at his voting place.
One of its supporters is María Gabriela Gaviola, a 63-year-old businesswoman who is doing everything possible to avoid the closure of her company, which manufactures veterinary products, amid rising materials prices. And the government has not helped, including Massa, who has held his ministerial position for more than a year.
“It is not considered the productive sector of this country. How long can a country that does not produce be well? said Gaviola, who has taken on two side jobs to keep his company afloat. “The truth is that I don’t know Milei. I’ve heard it a little. I don’t know him, but the one I already know doesn’t help me. “I prefer to try something new.”
Most pre-election polls, which have been notoriously wrong at every step of this year’s campaign, showed a statistical tie between the two candidates. Voters of first-round candidates who did not make it to the second round will be key. Patricia Bullrich, who came third, has endorsed Milei.
Underscoring the bitter division this campaign has revealed, Milei received boos and applause on Friday night at the legendary Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires.
Those divisions were also evident Sunday when Milei’s running mate, Victoria Villaruel, went to vote and was greeted by protesters angry at her claims that the toll of Argentina’s bloody 1976-1983 military dictatorship is much higher. . below what human rights organizations have long claimedbetween other controversial positions.
The vote came amid Milei’s protest. accusations of possible electoral fraud, reminiscent of those of Trump and former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. Without providing evidence, Milei claimed that the first round of the presidential election was plagued by irregularities that affected the result. Experts say such irregularities cannot influence an election, and that her claims were intended in part to inflame her base and motivate her followers to become polling station monitors.
Such claims were widely spread on social media, and at Milei’s rally in Ezeiza earlier this week, everyone interviewed told the AP they were concerned about the integrity of the vote.