Home Headlines Presidential election in Argentina: Will the Far Right win this time?

Presidential election in Argentina: Will the Far Right win this time?

by Yucatan Times
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BUENOS AIRES.- Argentines began voting today Sunday, October 22, in a national election that a far-right libertarian appears in pole position to win, propelled from radical outsider to front-runner by fallout from the country’s worst economic crisis in two decades.

Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (1100 GMT) in a ballot that is likely to roil financial markets, set a new political and social path for the nation – a major grains exporter with huge reserves of lithium and shale gas – and impact its ties with trade partners including China and Brazil.

Libertarian economist Javier Milei is one of three candidates likely to split the vote, and the man to beat after posting a shock win in open primaries in August.

Centrist Peronist Economy Minister Sergio Massa and conservative Patricia Bullrich are tipped to trail him by a small margin, and pollsters expect no outright winner, meaning a runoff vote will be needed.

Milei, pledging to “chainsaw” the economic and political status quo, has seen angry voters flock to his tear-it-all-down message, fed up with annual inflation at close to 140% and poverty affecting over two-fifths of the population.

“Milei is the incarnation of all society’s demands,” said Juan Luis González, who wrote a biography of him titled “El Loco”, meaning the crazy one. He thinks Milei, a brash former TV pundit likened to Donald Trump and former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, will win despite being an “unstable” character who could damage Argentina further.

“I see a very worrying situation,” González said.

SHOCK THERAPY

To win outright on Sunday, a candidate will need over 45% of the vote or 40% and a 10-point lead over rivals. Polls will close around 6:00 p.m. (2100 GMT) and first results are expected at 9:00 p.m. (00:00 GMT).

Any run-off will be held on Nov. 19.

Whoever of the trio emerges victorious will have to deal with an economy on life support: central bank reserves are empty, recession is expected after a major drought, and a $44 billion program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is wobbling.

Milei’s recipe of shock therapy includes pledges to dollarize the economy, shut the central bank, slash the size of government, and privatize state entities. He has criticized China, favors looser gun laws, opposes abortion, and is anti-feminist.

“He is the only one who understands the situation in the country and understands how to save it,” said Buenos Aires student Nicolas Mercado, 22.

Massa, the current economy chief, is in the running despite overseeing inflation hitting triple digits for the first time since 1991. He has said he will cut the fiscal deficit, stick with the peso, and defend the Peronist social welfare safety net.

“Massa represents certain traditional guarantees with which I was raised: public health, state education, which is what I want to defend with my vote,” said astrologer Flavia Vázquez.

Bullrich, a former security minister who is popular in business circles, has seen her support diluted by the unexpected emergence of Milei. Pollsters see her as the most likely of the top three runners to miss out on a second round.

“I voted, I’m really happy. Democracy is the best system,” 69-year-old Emilio Betesh at a polling station in Buenos Aires on Sunday morning. “I think there will be a run-off, between Milei and someone. Who? I don’t know. Let’s see what happens.”

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