A feverish vote count began Sunday evening in Argentina, during a presidential election as tense and indecisive as rarely seen in 40 years of democracy, between centrist Sergio Massa and ultra-liberal and “anti-system” Javier Milei.
In short, Javier Milei will be the next president of Argentina after winning the second round of the presidential elections on Sunday. His rival conceded the results of the vote early Sunday evening, conceding his defeat.
Javier Milei, 53, “is the president the majority of Argentines chose for the next four years,” said Massa, who finished first in the first round on Oct. 22. Shortly before the announcement of the partial official results, he indicated, in front of his supporters gathered at the headquarters of his campaign in Buenos Aires, that he called Javier Milei to “congratulate him and wish him the best of luck”.
Polling stations closed at 18:00 with a turnout of 76%, and the first official results are expected around 21:00, but a clear picture could take time to emerge in the event of a small difference.
According to the official partial results, Javier Milei was declared the winner with 55.95% of the votes against Sergio Massa’s 44.04%.
Long-term care or shock therapy for a never-ending economic crisis? For Latin America’s third largest economy, 36 million Argentines were called upon to decide between future projects that could not be more antagonistic.
On the one hand, Sergio Massa, 51 years old, consummate politician, Minister of Economy for 16 months of a Peronist executive (center left) from whom he has been gradually distancing himself. And that he promised a “government of national unity”, and a gradual economic recovery, preserving the welfare state, fundamental in Argentine culture.
In front of him, Javier Milei, 53 years old, an “anarcho-capitalist” economist as he defines himself, a television polemicist who entered politics two years ago. Accused against the “parasitic caste”, determined to “cut” the “enemy state” and dollarize the economy. For him, climate change is a “cycle”, not a human responsibility.
Between ? The Argentines who pass “from crisis to crisis, and on the verge of a nervous breakdown”, summarizes Ana Iparraguirre, political scientist of the company GBAO Strategies.
Exhausted by prices that go up month-to-month, even week-to-week, when wages drop, including the minimum wage of 146,000 pesos (US$400).
Rents beyond the reach of many, and mothers resorting to bartering, as after the traumatic “Great Recession” of 2001.
68% of young people aged between 18 and 29 would emigrate if they could, according to a study by the University of Buenos Aires earlier this year.
“You have to bet!” »
“I think that neither candidate likes the Argentines. But we have to vote for the least worst”, resigned Maria Paz Ventura, a 26-year-old doctor. A lot of people are afraid of him (Milei), but the way we are, a change wouldn’t hurt us. You have to bet! “. »
Very emotional, Maria Carballo, a 40-year-old architect, said that when she presented her ballot “she felt like crying, for fear that Milei would win. His ideas scare me. I have confidence in Massa”.
The undecided, around 10% according to estimates, held the key to decide between Massa (37% in the first round) and Milei (30%).
Milei attracted an “outrageous” vote, but his rhetoric, his desire to dry up public spending in a country where 51% of Argentines receive social assistance, or his project to “deregulate the arms market of fire” were also afraid.
In addition, the “anti-system” candidate lowered his voice between the two rounds. Fewer appearances, less clear, and a message: “Vote without fear, because fear paralyzes and benefits the status quo.”
“Let’s Get Hit”
“What is at stake now is less support than rejection” of the other, believes Gabriel Vommaro, a political scientist at the University of San Martín.
“It is not love that unites us, but fear,” says political scientist Belen Amadeo, quoting the famous Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges.
The only certainty: whoever wins, there will be “quick economic decisions that will hurt”, says Ana Iparraguirre.
The country is under pressure from the budget rebalancing goals of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to which Argentina is painfully repaying a colossal $44 billion loan granted in 2018.
“Whatever happens, we don’t see a bright future. We expect to be hit,” grimaced Mariano Delfino, 36, after voting “without conviction.”
Adding to the environmental jitters, Milei’s camp has distilled in recent weeks insinuations of fraud, with no charges ever filed.
“Beware of the very bad examples of (Donald) Trump and (Jair) Bolsonaro” who promoted these messages or “didn’t accept the results,” Massa warned.
Milei, received Sunday at his electoral college with shouts of “Freedom, freedom!” » assured that his camp was “well, very calm, despite the campaign of fear” against him. Massa, for his part, has called on Argentines to vote “with reflection, serenity, calm” and with “hope”.
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