A ‘protest vote’
Experts have called Sunday’s result a “protest vote”. Argentina has long been trapped in recurring cycles of deep and destructive economic contractions, brought on by decades of economic mismanagement and corruption. It currently faces nearly 150 per cent inflation, plummeting Argentinian peso, rising poverty, and near-empty government coffers.
Copping most of the blame: the left-leaning Peronists that have dominated Argentine politics since the 1940s. “The option [voters had] was more of the same in catastrophic economic conditions or a radical gamble on a potentially bright future with a lot of downside risk,” Benjamin Gedan, an Argentina specialist from the Wilson Centre, told The Guardian.
They chose the latter, with Peronist Economy Minister Sergio Massa conceding after securing only 44 per cent of the vote.
The Madman’s ‘shock therapy’
“Today begins the end of Argentina’s decline,” Milei, called ‘El Loco’ (The Madman) by some, proclaimed in a televised address after his victory. His electoral promises entail what experts refer to as “economic shock therapy”.
He has pushed for abolishing the central bank, slashing government spending, and most notably, ditching the peso to dollarise Argentina’s economy. In a country where constant currency depreciation has made it near-impossible to plan day-to-day economic activities, this proposal promises to provide stability in the short term, despite forgoing autonomy in deciding monetary policy.
If enacted, however, it would hurl the nation into unknown territory: no country of Argentina’s size has turned over the reins of its own monetary policy to Washington decision-makers.
A political showman
Milei entered politics roughly five years ago, after finding fame as a television personality who pontificated on sex and economics alike. “Each man has his own dynamic. In my particular case, I ejaculate every three months,” Milei once boasted on air. His political persona too doubles down on his fondness for provocation.
Earlier this year, Milei began toting chainsaws at his rallies — a symbol of his planned cuts to the government. In 2020, a campaign movie ended with a close-up shot of Milei grinning mischievously while grabbing a mediaeval hammer to smash a model of the central bank, as fist-pumping supporters screamed “Destruction!” in the background.
He is staunchly anti-abortion, has called human-driven climate change a ‘socialist lie’, promised to loosen gun laws as well as legalise organ trade. He has also been highly critical of Pope Francis, who hails from Argentina.
“Milei’s policies scare me,” teacher Susana Martinez, 42, told Reuters on Sunday. She voted for Massa.
Milei was elected to the National Congress for the Libertad Avanza (Freedom Advances) party in 2021, although it was last August where he truly burst into the national scene, after winning over 30 per cent of the vote in the primaries, considered to be the dress rehearsal for this year’s election.
First appeared on indianexpress.com