Argentina’s finance minister Sergio Massa has emerged as the winner of the first round of the presidential election, beating the far-right populist Javier Milei, who came second with 30% of votes. Massa, a centrist Peronist, will face Milei, a libertarian economist, in a runoff on November 19.
Massa, who has been praised for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the debt restructuring with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), promised to lead a national unity government that would bring stability and growth to Argentina. He said he would not fail the voters who trusted him and that Argentina needed someone to work 24/7 to protect it.
Milei, who has vowed to abolish the central bank and shun Argentina’s main trade partners, China and Brazil, urged his supporters to celebrate the historic achievement of reaching the runoff only two years after his party, La Libertad Avanza (Freedom Advances), was founded. He said that two-thirds of Argentinians voted for change and that the country had to change or sink.
Milei’s rise shocks the political establishment
Milei, who is known for his eccentric style and foul-mouthed rhetoric, has shocked the political establishment with his meteoric rise in popularity. He has attracted a large following among young and disillusioned voters who are fed up with the traditional parties and the economic crisis that has plagued Argentina for decades.
Milei, who is often compared to Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and Boris Johnson, has tapped into the anti-establishment sentiment and the distrust of institutions that have grown in Argentina amid corruption scandals, high inflation and poverty. He has also appealed to the conservative and religious sectors of society with his opposition to abortion, gender equality and environmentalism.
Milei’s supporters see him as a defender of individual freedom and a crusader against socialism and statism. They admire his charisma and his unconventional approach to politics. They also enjoy his rock music performances and his references to tantric sex.
Massa offers a moderate alternative
Massa, who is a former chief of staff and congressman, offers a moderate alternative to Milei’s radicalism. He has presented himself as a pragmatic and experienced leader who can steer Argentina out of its economic troubles and restore its international credibility. He has also pledged to respect democratic institutions and human rights.
Massa, who is backed by President Alberto Fernández and Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, has tried to distance himself from some of their controversial policies and appeal to a broader spectrum of voters. He has emphasized his achievements as finance minister, such as securing a $4.3 billion loan from the IMF, reducing public debt and increasing social spending.
Massa’s supporters see him as a sensible and responsible candidate who can balance the demands of different sectors of society and negotiate with foreign creditors and allies. They also appreciate his moderate tone and his willingness to dialogue with different political forces.
The runoff will be a polarized contest
The runoff between Massa and Milei will be a polarized contest that will define the future direction of Argentina. The two candidates represent opposite visions of the role of the state, the economy and society. They also have very different personalities and styles of communication.
The campaign is expected to be intense and heated, with both candidates trying to mobilize their bases and attract undecided voters. The outcome will depend on several factors, such as the turnout, the performance of the candidates in debates, the endorsements from other political figures and the influence of fake news.
The runoff will also have regional and global implications, as it will affect Argentina’s relations with its neighbors, especially Brazil, as well as with major powers such as China, the United States and the European Union.