Possibilities Abound for Argentina’s Next President

  • November 18, 2023

On Sunday, Argentine voters will choose their next president in the most divisive runoff campaign in decades. Sergio Massa, Argentina’s current economy minister in the current left-wing government and leader of the Union of the Fatherland coalition, will face Javier Milei, the anti-establishment and pro-liberty Liberty Advances coalition. The vote has the potential to forever change the political landscape in one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and home to large reserves of lithium, a key ingredient in the production of electronic batteries. Polls predict a tight race, with most voters giving Miley a slight edge.

Oliver Stuenkel

Oliver Stuenkel is an assistant professor at the School of International Relations at the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) in São Paulo, Brazil. He is also a non-resident scholar affiliated with the Democracy, Conflict, and Governance program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The winner will inherit the recession-hit economy. Argentina has been hit by a historic drought this year, as well as the failure of monetary and fiscal policies, high debts, and an inflation rate of more than 140 percent.up from 79 percent when Massa takes over the Ministry of Economy in August 2022.

Two out of five people in Argentina are poor, leading an increasing number of young Argentines to migrate to countries like Spain.

To make matters worse, neither Massa nor Milei would have a majority in the Legislature, and presidents with weak congressional support have historically struggled to get much done, or even finish their policies.

The emergence of a powerful foreigner with a strong chance of becoming Argentina’s president is not surprising.

In democracies around the world, the past decade has seen candidates with anti-establishment rhetoric and authoritarian tendencies win elections, or come close—as in the United States, Brazil, or Colombia.

Considering that the center-right government of Maurício Macri, who ruled from 2015 to 2019, or the current government of Alberto Fernandez – who did not seek re-election – succeeded in stabilizing the Argentine economy, Argentina was fertile ground for Milei to rise.

Milei has been described by international observers as an “extraordinary liberal,” an “extremist,” and a “populist,” but he calls himself an “anarcho-capitalist” and has vowed to fight the “parasitic caste” of the political parties he is affiliated with. about the Argentine disaster.

Among his controversial proposals are to close the Central Bank and monetize the economy, loosen gun restrictions and cut diplomatic ties to countries Milei describes as communist or socialist.

He attacked the leaders of countries such as Brazil, China, the United States, and Chile, which are the four most important countries for Argentina to trade with. Milei has also denied that climate change is caused by humans, engaged in negative rhetoric about Argentina’s dictatorship, and vowed to drastically reduce public spending, including on issues such as fighting racism and strengthening women’s rights.

Yet the fact that Massa received more votes than Milei in the first round, even though Massa oversaw a shaky economy, suggests that many voters were disillusioned by Milei’s exuberance and brash style—including attacks on Pope Francis, who is from Argentina. .

After a somewhat disappointing result in the first round last month, when many polls had predicted that she would receive a large number of votes, Milei wanted to moderate her speech.

This effort is an attempt to attract voters who voted for Patrícia Bullrich and her centre-right coalition Together for Change in the first round. Both Bullrich and Macri supported Milei after the October vote, however whether voters will take their advice is not yet clear — the alliance with Milei was uneasy.

As in the United States and Brazil, where the emergence of a right-wing anti-establishment candidate has undermined traditional conservative forces, Milei’s election could lead to the dissolution of the Together for Change coalition.

One of the biggest unknowns for domestic and foreign analysts is whether Milei will rule according to the crisis he accepted before the first round, or as a moderate president as his speech during the proposal.

While Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro enjoys strong support from several organized and powerful political groups, such as the armed forces and the police, Milei does not have the same level of support from any such organizations. In addition, Milei’s party only controls a small number of seats in the Argentine Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Even if he can get the support of conservatives on some ballots, they are unlikely to go along with his extreme views.

Massa is considered a moderate progressive leftist—or “the young Peronist of Peronists”—but without organizational support for his vision, he will have to rely on hard leftist elements. These coalition members resist cutting public spending or subsidies, measures that would be necessary to address Argentina’s long-standing problems of inflation. With nearly half of the population dependent on additional government subsidies or job programs, spending cuts will temporarily increase poverty, have high political costs, and can quickly cause social unrest.

Considering this very challenging economic situation and the deep divide between two very different views of the world—one of continuous reform, one of radical change—whoever wins will be rejected by almost half of all voters. It is not an exaggeration to say that the next president of Argentina will face him.