Voting begins in Argentina’s presidential race, likely to send Milei, a Trump favorite, to the presidency
Voters in Argentina headed to the polls on Sunday in a presidential runoff election that will determine whether South America’s second-largest economy can get on the right track.
Republican Javier Milei, a progressive candidate who started out as a television talk show host, is often compared to former US President Donald Trump. He faces Economy Minister Sergio Massa from the Peronist party, which has been a dominant force in Argentine politics for decades.
On Massa’s watch, inflation has risen to over 140% and poverty has increased. Milei, a self-described anarcho-capitalist, recommends reducing the size of the state and stopping inflation, while Massa has warned people about the negative effects of such policies.
The very polar choice makes many decide which one of the two they consider to be the worse choice.
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“Whatever happens in this election will be unpredictable,” said Lucas Romero, director of local political consultancy Synopsis. “It would be unthinkable for Massa to win in this economic context or for Milei to win against a candidate as professional as Massa.”
Polling stations opened at 8am (1100 GMT) and closed 10 hours later. Voting will be done by paper ballots, making the count imprecise, but initial results were expected about three hours after the polls closed.
Milei went from exploding the country’s “political caste” on TV to winning a seat as a lawmaker two years ago. The economist’s screeds resonated with Argentines angry at their struggle to make ends meet, especially young men.
“Money covers less and less every day. I am a qualified person, and my salary is not enough for anything, “said Esteban Medina, a 26-year-old physical therapist from Ezeiza, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Associated Press on the outskirts of Milei’s rally earlier this week.
Massa, as one of the most prominent figures in an unpopular administration, was once seen as having little chance of victory. But he managed to mobilize the networks of his Peronist party and achieved a decisive first place finish in the first round of voting.
His campaign has warned Argentines that his libertarian opponent’s plan to eliminate prime ministries and otherwise rapidly cut the state would threaten public services, including health and education, and welfare programs on which many rely. Massa has also drawn attention to his opponent’s often aggressive rhetoric and has openly questioned his sanity; prior to the first round, Milei would sometimes carry a reviving chainsaw at rallies.
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Massa’s only chance to win this election is when people want change … to make this election a referendum on whether Milei is fit to be president or not,” said Ana Iparraguirre, com -Partner at pollster GBAO Strategies.
Milei has accused Massa and his allies of running a “campaign of fear” and has walked back some of his most controversial proposals, such as gun control. In his final campaign ad, Milei faces the camera and assures voters that he has no plans to privatize education or health care.
Most pre-election polls, which have been dead wrong at every step of this year’s campaign, show a statistical tie between the two candidates. Voters for candidates in the first round who did not make the rain will be important. Patricia Bullrich, who placed third, has supported Milei.
Javier Rojas, a 36-year-old pediatrician who voted for Bullrich in October, told The Associated Press that he is leaning toward Milei, adding: “Well, to be honest, it’s more of a vote ‘ in the opposite direction than anything else.
Underscoring the bitter division this campaign has revealed, Milei was both booed and cheered Friday night at the legendary Colón Theater in Buenos Aires.
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The vote will take place amid Milei’s accusations of possible electoral fraud, reminiscent of those from Trump and former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Without giving evidence, Milei said that the first round of the presidential election was marred by irregularities that affected the result. Experts say that such irregularities cannot sway an election, and that his statements are partly aimed at firing up his base and encouraging his supporters to become observers of polling stations.
Such claims spread widely on social media and, at Milei’s rally in Ezeiza earlier this week, everyone interviewed by the AP said they were concerned about the integrity of the vote.
“You don’t have to show statistically significant errors,” Fernanda Buril, of the Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems, said in an email. “If you draw enough attention to one problem in one polling station that does not affect the results in any meaningful way, people are likely to overestimate the frequency and impact of these and other problems in general elections.”