These results reflect the ongoing battle for two radically different visions for the country amidst economic turmoil.
Despite decades of fiscal crises, ballooning debt, financial mismanagement, and a volatile currency, Argentina’s Latin America’s third-largest economy continues to struggle with triple-digit inflation.
Sergio Massa, a charismatic figure representing the ruling centre-left Peronist coalition, secured the first-place spot in the initial election with 36.4% of the votes, despite overseeing record levels of annual inflation and poverty.
In his victory speech, Massa acknowledged the country’s complex situation, saying, “Our country is in a complicated situation… nevertheless, you believed we were the best tool to build a new step in Argentina’s history.”
On the other side of the spectrum is Javier Milei, the libertarian economist who garnered 30.51% of the vote.
Milei has been advocating for massive public spending cuts and dollarizing the economy, making him a potent challenger to traditional political parties.
His rock-singing and TikTok-savvy campaign has resonated with Argentines fed up with the economic chaos.
Milei stated, “Today is a historic day because two-thirds voted for change. All of us who want change have to work together. We can win, take back our country, prevent our kids from leaving the country.”
These two candidates will compete in a runoff election on November 19th, with the winner set to take office on December 10th.
Massa vs Milei: Who wins?
Massa presented himself as the calmer, steadier hand in the race against Milei’s fiery rhetoric.
Massa’s campaign warned voters about the impact of public subsidy cuts on their daily lives, although critics argued that this spending spree could worsen Argentina’s fragile financial situation.
Milei’s campaign has blindsided pollsters as he surged to the front of the election race.
While many yearn for significant change, some Argentines worry about the potential dismantling of the social welfare state that supports millions.
While analysts acknowledge Milei’s surge as part of the anti-establishment trend in the region, they stress that the runoff battle between Massa and Milei will be fierce.
“I think a simple reading of this first-round result is that many more Argentines want to throw Peronists out of power than the number who would like to see them remain,” said Benjamin Gedan, director of the Argentina Project at the Washington-based Wilson Center.
As Argentina grapples with high levels of poverty and a struggling middle class, many voters are turning to Milei, perceiving the traditional parties as the architects of their suffering.
Uncertainty and fear of the economic repercussions of the election played a significant role for many voters who chose the “least worst” option.
Graphic designer Maria Olguin, 40, expressed the sentiment: “There is so much uncertainty … and fear, out of these candidates, there are none who represent me. There is no one who can change what we need here in Argentina.”
- additional report by AFP