Argentina’s Economy Minister Sergio Massa admitted his defeat to populist Javier Milei in Sunday’s presidential election runoff, before the country’s electoral authorities released official results.
Massa congratulated his opponent, a right-wing economist who promised a radical shake-up for many of the country’s institutions and welcomed frequent comparisons to former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Immediately after Massa’s concession speech, Argentine electoral authorities released partial results: with 86.6 percent of the votes cast, Milei had 55.95 percent and Massa 44.04 percent.
If this margin is maintained, it would be wider than all the polls predicted and the widest since the return of democracy to Argentina in 1983.
On the streets of Buenos Aires, motorists honked their horns and many took to the streets to celebrate in several neighborhoods. Outside Milei’s party headquarters, a hotel in downtown Buenos Aires, supporters were euphoric.
“A new chapter in Argentina”
With a Milei victory, the country will shift to the right amid discontent over rising inflation and poverty, and empower a new lawmaker who describes himself as an anarcho-capitalist and has his debut as a television headliner blowing up what he calls “politics.” caste.”
Inflation soared above 140 percent and poverty worsened while Massa held office. Milei, a self-described anarcho-capitalist, proposed reducing the size of the state and curbing inflation, while the minister he was running against warned people of the negative impacts of such policies. The election forced many people to decide which of the two was the less bad choice.
Milei’s speeches resonated widely with Argentines angered by their struggle to make ends meet, particularly among young men.
“Money covers less and less every day. I am a qualified person and my salary is not enough for anything,” Esteban Medina, a 26-year-old physiotherapist from Ezeiza, a suburb 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 government, was once seen as having little chance of victory. But he managed to mobilize the networks of his Peronist party and won 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 sharply restrict the state would threaten public services, including health and education, as well as the social programs on which many rely. Massa also called attention to his opponent’s often aggressive rhetoric and openly questioned his mental acuity; Before the first round, Milei sometimes carried a chainsaw on rev at rallies.
Speaking after voting at the University of Buenos Aires law school, Jenifer Pio, 36, told the AP she feared a Milei victory would risk the return of dictatorship.
“Milei doesn’t have the slightest idea how to govern,” said Pio, a housewife. “It’s not bad that he’s proud, but he could use a little more stability. He’s emotionally and psychologically unstable. He’s not doing well.”
Ana Iparraguirre, a partner at investigative firm GBAO Strategies, said “the only chance for Massa to win this election when people want change… is to make this election a referendum on whether Milei is fit or not to be president.
“We are opening a new chapter in Argentina, and this chapter requires not only goodwill, intelligence and capacity, but above all the dialogue and consensus necessary for our homeland to travel a much more virtuous path to the future,” Massa told reporters on Sunday. after voting.
Milei accused Massa and his allies of waging a “fear campaign” and walked back some of his most controversial proposals, such as easing gun controls. 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 massive security operation as dozens of supporters and journalists gathered at his polling station.
One of his supporters is Maria Gabriela Gaviola, a 63-year-old entrepreneur who is doing everything she can to avoid the closure of her veterinary manufacturing company amid rising materials prices. And the government has not helped, including Massa who has held his ministerial post for over a year.
“The productive sector of this country is not taken into account. How long can a country that does not produce be in good shape?” said Gaviola, who took two side jobs to keep her business afloat. “The truth is, I don’t know Milei. I’ve heard him a little. I don’t know him, but the one I already know doesn’t help me. I’d rather try something new.”
Most pre-election polls, notoriously flawed at every stage of this year’s campaign, showed a statistical tie between the two candidates. Voters for first-round candidates who did not participate in the second round will be essential. Patricia Bullrich, who placed third, supported Milei.
Underscoring the bitter division this campaign has brought to the forefront, Milei received both boos and cheers Friday night at the legendary Colon Theater 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 over her claims that the death toll from Argentina’s bloody 1976-1983 military dictatorship is far lower than something human rights organizations have long claimed. among other controversial positions.
The vote came amid allegations of election fraud made by Milei, reminiscent of those made by Trump and former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Without providing evidence, Milei claimed that the first round of the presidential election was marred by irregularities that affected the outcome. Experts say such irregularities cannot swing an election and that his claims were aimed in part at inflaming his base and motivating his supporters to become poll watchers.
Such claims have spread widely 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.