Propelled by Economic Woes, “Argentina’s Trump” is Poised for Presidential Win

Argentina is bracing for a political earthquake as Javier Milei, a far-right libertarian economist and former rock musician, is poised to win the presidency in a runoff election on November 19.

Milei, who has been dubbed “Argentina’s Trump” for his populist rhetoric and unconventional style, stunned the nation by topping the first round of voting on October 22 with nearly 37 percent of the vote, ahead of the incumbent economy minister Sergio Massa, who garnered about 30 percent.

The result reflected the deep discontent and frustration of many Argentines with the ruling coalition of President Alberto Fernández and Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who have presided over a severe economic crisis marked by soaring inflation, shrinking growth, rising poverty and a massive debt burden.

Milei, who sports long hair, thick sideburns and a signature red tie, has vowed to radically overhaul Argentina’s economy by abolishing the central bank, dollarizing the currency, slashing public spending and taxes, opening up trade and deregulating markets. He has also expressed his opposition to abortion, sex education, COVID-19 vaccines and climate change policies.

His fiery speeches and frequent insults against his political rivals have earned him both fervent supporters and fierce critics. He has mobilized a large base of young followers through social media platforms such as TikTok, where he posts videos of himself singing, dancing and wielding a chainsaw.

Milei’s rise has alarmed many observers who fear that his extreme proposals could plunge Argentina into further chaos and instability. Some have compared him to former President Carlos Menem, who implemented a series of neoliberal reforms in the 1990s that led to a devastating economic collapse in 2001.

Massa, who represents the moderate wing of the ruling coalition, has tried to portray himself as a pragmatic and responsible alternative to Milei’s radicalism. He has defended his record as economy minister, arguing that he has managed to stabilize the exchange rate, renegotiate the debt with the International Monetary Fund and boost exports and investment.

He has also accused Milei of being a demagogue who exploits people’s anger and ignorance without offering realistic solutions. He has warned that Milei’s plans would destroy Argentina’s productive capacity, social welfare and sovereignty.

The runoff election is expected to be a tight and polarized contest, with both candidates seeking to attract voters from other parties that were eliminated in the first round. According to recent polls, Milei has a slight edge over Massa, but the gap is within the margin of error.

The outcome of the election will have significant implications for Argentina’s future direction and its relations with the rest of the world. The stakes are high for a country that was once one of the richest and most prosperous in the region, but has suffered decades of economic decline and political turmoil.

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