…if Milei were to decisively win – considering his proposals such as dollarizing the economy and shutting down the central bank – it offers little in terms of a solution to the country’s most severe economic crisis in two decades
Argentina’s ruling Peronist coalition exceeded all expectations as they emerged victorious in the country’s general election this Sunday, October 22, 2023. This outcome now sets the stage for a riveting and polarized run-off vote scheduled for next month. The duel will feature the country’s Economy Minister, Sergio Massa, squaring off against the far-right libertarian radical, Javier Milei.
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As the votes were tallied, Massa secured an impressive 36.6% of the electorate, while Milei trailed with just over 30%. Meanwhile, the conservative Patricia Bullrich lagged behind at 23.8%, a result that defied the pre-election polls that had favored a libertarian victory.
A thrilling run-off looms
The unexpected resurgence of the Peronist party, despite presiding over a worrisome triple-digit inflation rate not seen since 1991, is now paving the way for an exciting second round of voting on November 19, 2023. In this upcoming round, two profoundly contrasting economic models will go head-to-head in a battle that will determine the future of the troubled nation.
While this outcome may ease concerns about a radical shift in policies if Milei were to decisively win – considering his proposals such as dollarizing the economy and shutting down the central bank – it offers little in terms of a solution to the country’s most severe economic crisis in two decades.
Argentinians turned out in large numbers to cast their votes on Sunday, driven by economic hardships and growing frustration with the established elite. Massa, speaking after the election results were announced, acknowledged the challenges faced by many of his coalition’s supporters, saying, “I know that many of those who voted for us are the ones who are suffering the most. Our country is going through a complex and challenging situation… I won’t let them down.”
The blame game persisted, with many pointing fingers at the Peronists for the nation’s problems. However, Massa, positioned as a moderate, defended his party’s social safety nets and subsidies, underscoring their crucial role for many financially disadvantaged Argentinians. He even staged a demonstration illustrating how train and bus fares could surge if he were to lose. This message appears to have resonated with a significant portion of the electorate, adding an intriguing dimension to this high-stakes electoral showdown.
Peronism vs. Milei’s Radical Vision
Amid the intense electoral battleground, the Argentine people’s voices echoed with intensity and enthusiasm. As 61-year-old bricklayer Carlos Gutierrez headed to the polling station, he articulated a sentiment that struck at the heart of the matter: “Peronism is the sole option that offers the chance for the most disadvantaged among us to access essential necessities.”
On the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, Javier Milei presented a bold vision, advocating for audacious economic measures such as dollarization while challenging major trade partners like China and Brazil. To clinch victory on this crucial Sunday, a candidate would need to secure over 45% of the vote or achieve 40% with a substantial 10-point lead.
“We’ve never witnessed such profound polarization,” remarked 72-year-old pensioner Silvia Monto as she cast her vote in Buenos Aires, highlighting the deep divisions within the population. Milei’s pledge to “cut through” the existing economic and political status quo resonated with many disheartened voters grappling with skyrocketing prices surpassing their incomes. The fervent declaration of 22-year-old Buenos Aires student Nicolas Mercado encapsulated the sentiment of those rallying behind Milei: “He’s the only one who comprehends the country’s situation and knows how to rescue it.”
Following the release of the initial results, Milei, undeterred and resolute, delivered a defiant speech. His determination to prevail in the upcoming second round next month carried a sense of historical significance: “We are facing the most significant election of the past century,” he proclaimed. “If we unite our efforts, we can win; if we unite our efforts, we can reclaim our nation.”
Election turnout dips to historic lows
The election authorities reported a turnout of approximately 74%, indicating an increase from the August primaries. However, this figure still fell notably short of the 81% participation observed in the previous election, marking the lowest general election turnout since Argentina’s return to democracy in 1983. The decline in participation underscored the gravity and uncertainty surrounding this critical moment in the nation’s political landscape.
The victor in this high-stakes electoral battle will inherit an economy teetering on the brink. Central bank reserves have been drained, and a looming recession, exacerbated by a severe drought, casts a shadow over the nation. To compound matters further, a precarious $44 billion program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) adds to the economic uncertainty.
Silvana Dezilio, a 37-year-old housewife residing in Buenos Aires province, encapsulated the widespread disillusionment. She expressed her skepticism, stating that it’s difficult to envision a positive outcome, regardless of the election’s outcome. “All governments promise things and end up sinking us a little more. It seems unbelievable, but we are getting worse and worse. We read those other countries have overcome the problems that, for us, are getting worse every day,” she lamented, underscoring the profound challenges and despair that plague the nation.