Buenos Aires, Argentina (TEH) – A seismic shift in Argentina’s political landscape occurred on Sunday as far-right populist Javier Milei emerged as the leading vote-getter in the primary elections for the upcoming October general election. The nation, beleaguered by economic turmoil, witnessed a political phenomenon that could reshape its future.
Milei, a fervent admirer of former U.S. President Donald Trump, has been a controversial figure with radical ideas. He advocates for the abolition of Argentina’s Central Bank, dismisses climate change as a fabrication, and supports the legalization of organ sales and handgun ownership.
As the votes were tallied late into Sunday, analysts concurred that Milei’s unexpected success marked him as a genuine contender for the presidency in this South American country. With approximately 92% of polling locations reporting, Milei had secured around 30% of the total vote, outpacing the main opposition coalition, United for Change, at 28%, and the current governing coalition, Union for the Homeland, at 27%.
Milei’s triumph at the polls was a clarion call for change, as he pledged to dismantle the “parasitic, corrupt and useless political caste” in Argentina, according to Washington Post. His victory speech resonated with a promise of a new beginning, declaring, “Today we took the first step toward the reconstruction of Argentina. A different Argentina is impossible with the same people as always.”
Financial experts had cautioned that a strong showing by Milei could unsettle financial markets and precipitate a sharp decline in the value of Argentina’s peso. The uncertainty surrounding his potential economic policies as president added to these concerns.
Sunday’s vote, though officially a selection process for various political blocs, was also perceived as a nationwide gauge of candidates’ standing with Argentines as they approach the October election.
Milei’s success reflects a broader regional trend where voters are turning to outsider candidates as a means of venting frustration with traditional politicians. Argentina’s struggle with soaring inflation, escalating poverty, and a rapidly depreciating currency has fueled discontent. Milei’s call to replace the peso with the U.S. dollar found traction among many.
The initial results also indicated a shift to the right within the main opposition coalition, United for Change, as former Security Minister Patricia Bullrich defeated a more centrist contender, Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.
The governing coalition, Union for the Homeland, suffered a blow from voters due to the dismal state of the economy, finishing third in total votes. Economy Minister Sergio Massa became the coalition’s presidential candidate, defeating leftist Juan Grabois.
However, the spotlight remained on Milei, as voters sent a clear message of fatigue with the two coalitions that have dominated Argentina’s political scene for years.
Mariel Fornoni, director of Management and Fit, a political consulting firm, observed that the results “reflect people’s fatigue on the political leadership, and the lack of solutions within the spaces that have been in power consecutively,” as reported in Al-Jazeera.
At Milei’s electoral headquarters, party leaders were jubilant, and supporters celebrated outside, expressing optimism that their candidate’s support would only grow in the run-up to October.
Orlando Sánchez, 26, a retail worker, encapsulated the sentiment, saying, “I like his ideas about freedom. His ideas don’t scare me. People are free to choose what they want. If criminals walk around with guns on their belts, why can’t an ordinary citizen have one lawfully and with the proper documentation? People are clearly tired of politics, being constantly lied to.”