In the first round of Argentina’s presidential election on October 23, Javier Milei, self-identifying as an anarcho-capitalist, faced an unexpected defeat at the hands of centrist finance minister Sergio Massa.
Finance Minister Takes the Lead
Milei has rallied for a reduction in government size and the complete elimination of the country’s central bank, which he considers a scam. In a similar vein to Bitcoin-friendly El Salvador, he plans to replace the peso, but with the US dollar. He has also characterized Bitcoin as a solution to what he calls “central bank scams” and argues that fiat currency enables politicians to exploit the country’s population through inflation.
In contrast, Massa is committed to introducing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) as a solution to Argentina’s prolonged struggle with inflation. He has firmly opposed the adoption of the U.S. dollar as the official currency.
Despite the country’s economy being plagued by massive 140% annual inflation, which erodes people’s purchasing power and increases poverty levels, Massa managed to secure a victory over Milei, a political freshman known for his outspoken and unconventional style.
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Notably, Milei had been compared to a mix of Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and Boris Johnson. His supporters had hoped for a sensational victory similar to Bolsonaro’s in Brazil in 2018. However, with nearly 99% of the votes counted, Massa secured 36.6% of the 27 million votes, while Milei came in second with 29.9%. Patricia Bullrich, the conservative former security minister, secured the third spot with around 23.8% of the votes.
Now, Massa and Milei, aged 51 and 53, respectively, will face each other in a run-off on November 19. For an outright victory, a candidate would have needed more than 45% of the votes, or more than 40%, with a more than 10-point lead over their closest rival.
Another Month of Uncertainty Ahead
Massa, in his victory speech, vowed to lead a national unity government that would bring a “new phase in Argentina’s political history.” He emphasized his commitment to reducing uncertainty and protecting the country. He stated:
“Know that, as president, I will not fail you. Argentina is a big family, and what it needs is someone to work 24/7 to protect it.”
On the other hand, Milei urged his followers to celebrate their historic achievement in reaching the run-off within two years after their party, La Libertad Avanza, was founded.
Milei, a libertarian economist who entered politics in 2021, is known for his radical ideas, including the legalization of the sale of human organs. He campaigned on the promise to make Argentina a powerful nation again, stating:
“We’re going to decide whether we can make Argentina a power again or turn ourselves into the biggest shanty town on Earth.”
This result sets the country on course for another month of uncertainty and economic turbulence as it awaits the showdown between Massa and Milei. Massa’s victory is not assured yet, as many right-wing voters who supported Bullrich may migrate to Milei.