Argentinians have elected as their next president Javier Milei, a self-described anarcho-capitalist whose sensational rhetoric has drawn comparisons to former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Partial election results showed Milei had 55.8% and Massa 44.2%, with 95% of the votes tallies. Should that margin hold, it would be wider than predicted by all polls and the widest since Argentina’s return to democracy in 1983.
On the campaign trail, Milei, with his wild hair and inflammatory rhetoric, pledged economic shock therapy and to slash the size of the state. He’s also indicated he would move the Argentine embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – paralleling another move by the Trump administration.
Milei’s victory comes amid a nationwide wave of deep discontent and rising poverty. His opponent, Economy Minister Sergio Massa of the Peronist party, conceded defeat and congratulated Milei.
Argentine has been dealing with crippling inflation – above 140% – and poverty has worsened while Massa Massa’s campaign cautioned Argentinians that his libertarian opponent’s plan to eliminate key ministries and otherwise sharply curtail the state would threaten public services, including health and education, and welfare programs many rely on. Massa also drew attention to his opponent’s often aggressive rhetoric and openly questioned his mental acuity.
Milei accused Massa and his allies of running a “campaign of fear” and he walked back some of his most controversial proposals, such as loosening gun control. In his final campaign ad, Milei looks at the camera and assures voters he has no plans to privatize education or health care.
Milei’s rhetoric resonated widely with Argentines angered by their struggle to make ends meet. The election forced many to decide which of the two they considered to be the least bad choice.
Underscoring the bitter division this campaign has brought to the fore, Milei received both jeers and cheers on Friday night at the legendary Colón Theater in Buenos Aires.
“We’re starting a new chapter in Argentina,” Massa told journalists Sunday after casting his ballot. “This chapter requires not only goodwill, intelligence and capability but above all, dialogue and the necessary consensus for our homeland to traverse a much more virtuous path in the future.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.