In a historic shift, populist leader Javier Milei has emerged victorious in Argentina's presidential election with the widest margin of victory since the country's return to democracy in 1983. With 55.7 per cent of the votes in the runoff, Milei's win reflects a resounding call for change amidst economic challenges in the country.
Milei, a self-described anarcho-capitalist often compared to former United States President Donald Trump, delivered his victory speech. Milei pledged a dramatic overhaul to address Argentina's critical situation, emphasising the need for immediate, drastic measures. His movement has adopted the yellow Gadsden flag with the slogan "Don't Tread On Me."
Who is Javier Milei?
Javier Gerardo Milei was born on October 22, 1970 in Palermo, Buenos Aires, to Alicia, a housewife, and Norberto, a bus driver, with Italian roots. Growing up in the Villa Devoto neighbourhood, Milei attended Catholic schools and private universities. He earned the moniker "El Loco" ("The Madman") during his school days due to his outspoken nature and aggressive rhetoric, which later became his trademark.
Milei is an economist, author and now President-elect of Argentina. Prior to entering politics, Milei made a name for himself as an economist, authoring several influential books on economics and politics. Milei also worked as a university professor, imparting knowledge in macroeconomics, economic growth, microeconomics, and mathematics to economists.
In 2021, Milei was elected as a national deputy, representing the City of Buenos Aires under the banner of La Libertad Avanza. In this role, he focused on voting while criticising what he perceived as the excessive spending habits of Argentina's political elite. Milei pledged not to raise taxes and opted to donate his national deputy salary through a monthly raffle. Milei is known for critiquing the fiscal policies of various Argentine administrations. His economic views emphasise the importance of reduced government spending.
Distinctive personality with many nicknames
Beyond his economic and political roles, Milei is recognised for his flamboyant personality, unique personal style, and a robust media presence. Described politically as "right-wing libertarian", "populist", and "ultraliberal", he personally identifies as a liberal libertarian, aligning himself with minarchist and anarcho-capitalist principles. His unconventional views have not only set him apart in the Argentine political landscape but have also sparked polarising reactions, drawing significant public attention.
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Upon his victory in the presidential elections, Milei has been dubbed the "Argentinian Trump", "far-right outside", simply "outsider", and even "Wolverine" by an article in The Guardian.
Milei's reforms amidst rising inflation
The economic landscape of Argentina has been marred by inflation exceeding 140 per cent, and worsening poverty. Milei's proposals include reducing the size of the government, dollarising the economy, and eliminating the Central Bank to combat rampant inflation attributed to indiscriminate money printing by previous administrations.
While Milei has stated his opposition to sex education and abortion, he walked back some controversial proposals during the campaign. Despite criticism and fears over his radical agenda, particularly from the ruling Peronist party's Economy Minister Sergio Massa, Milei secured widespread support.
What does this mean for Argentina?
The victory signals a rightward shift for Argentina, with Milei, a freshman lawmaker, set to assume the presidency. His triumph is attributed to a demand for change, reflecting weariness, fatigue, and a protest vote from the majority of Argentines, according to Lucas Romero, head of Synopsis, a local political consulting firm, as stated in a report by AP.
Milei's campaign resonated with those frustrated by economic struggles, particularly among young men. The win also reflects the bitter division in Argentine politics, with Milei's victory celebrated by supporters and criticised by opponents who raised concerns about the potential impact on public services and welfare programmes.
Amid allegations of possible electoral fraud, reminiscent of Trump and Bolsonaro, Milei's victory has drawn global attention. The libertarian leader's unapologetic ideas, comparisons to Trump, and unconventional campaign tactics have made him a significant figure in Argentina's political landscape.