Elections in Argentina: Milei will be president
What was going to be a technical tie finally became a clear victory for Javier Milei in the second round of the Argentine presidential elections. The ultra-conservative libertarian candidate will become the new president of the country and will do so with a clear majority. Last night, before the first official data came to light, his rival, the current Minister of Economy Sergio Massa, appeared to acknowledge his defeat and congratulate the winner. The results confirmed it: Milei had 55.9% of the votes compared to Massa's 44% when he took 86.9% of the vote.
“I understand those who feel disappointment and anger tonight. I want to tell you personally that I tried to leave everything of myself in this campaign, I did it convinced because I deeply love Argentina, almost with the same intensity with which I love my children," said the Unión por la Patria candidate in the time to admit defeat.
All polls predicted a tie and, in some cases, a slight advantage for the Peronist candidate. They did not seem trustworthy if one takes into account that, for example, in the primary process no one sensed Milei's victory either, or that in the general elections it was the far-right who had the advantage and, on the other hand, it was Massa who was left first of all. However, the latest polls and ballots did not allow betting on a winner. There were also other estimates that suggested that the chainsaw candidate was achieving a six-point victory. Participation, in any case, was high; 76%, more than in the first round, in October.
Milei has perfected the Trumpist art of offensive and politically incorrect speech. She theatrically plays the punk rocker of Mussolinian excesses, who defends, in the same speech, torturers of the military dictatorship and the Nobel Prize winner in Economics Gary Becker. She wields the chainsaw with the Wall Street greenback. She hands out insults like “fucking lefty” and has called Pope Francis a “communist son of a bitch.” Some deputies from her party, La Libertad Avanza, have praised neo-Nazi leaders.
But the electoral atmosphere in Buenos Aires was not that of Berlin in 1933, nor even that of São Paulo in 2018. Rather, a reluctance was palpable in the third vote since August with Milei's star already more dim due to his pragmatic pacts with the center-right politicians that he previously described as the caste. In street conversations, the typical response was resignation at the need to choose the “lesser evil” between two candidates who – except in the most fanatical circles of Milei – do not inspire confidence.
Voters went to vote with some reluctance, despite being the closest elections in recent times
Massa's campaign counted on the fact that the pact with the traditional center-right, led by Mauricio Macri, would have reduced Milei's "anti-system" credibility. It remains to be seen if that is true, but those young fans who attend the libertarian candidate's rallies were not seen in Buenos Aires. “I'm going to vote for Massa, but I don't like politics, I prefer boxing,” said a young worker at a grocery store near Congress.
On Corrientes Avenue, on Saturday night, a mass of people slipped through art deco cafes, pizzerias without a franchise, in front of theaters that performed Borges and bookstores still open at two in the morning. “I can't imagine a fascist winning where people read so much,” said an economist in Washington who advised the Kirchner government. The booing of Milei, during the performance of Madama Butterfly at the Colón theater on Friday, seemed like something out of a Visconti film, only in reverse, since in Buenos Aires the opera audience is anti-fascist.
The atmosphere was like any other Saturday, with the only drawback that starting at midnight, the alcohol ban on election day forced the waiters at the El Gato Negro cafeteria to pour the beer into paper cups as if it were tea. In a city that knew the dark nights of disappearances and torture, talking about fascism seemed like a bad joke. “If Milei wins, it will only last six months,” confided a Massa voter.
The establishment, for its part, already feels comfortable with the anti-Kirchnerist pact, although doubts about its dollarization plan will cause a strong purchase of dollars if Milei wins. Few worry anymore that the presidential Pink House is occupied by a man who, according to Juan Luis González in his book El loco, asks his dead pet mastiff for advice. Much has changed since the reconciliation with Macri and his candidate in the first round, Patricia Bullrich, was announced. “Milei has moderated herself in recent days – although not so much – due to her campaign needs and to win votes,” Rosendo Fraga, the director of the Nueva Mayoría Study Center, said in an interview. “There are those who consider Milei the lesser evil.” This logic drove the decision of center-right parties in Europe and Latin America – among them, the Spanish Popular Party – to support Milei.
The most widespread comment was that the electorate was going to opt for the “least bad” candidate.
But the pact with the libertarian extreme right in Argentina is a risky bet. Milei calls himself a liberal, but “his tactics are from Steve Bannon,” said a journalist in Buenos Aires, referring to the Trumpist guru of the international far-right.
This has become clear in recent days, in which the Milei campaign launched false warnings about electoral fraud, following in the footsteps of Trump and Bolsonaro.
The fraud hoax in the Argentine case was started by Milei's sister, Karina, who at the beginning of the week denounced a "colossal fraud" in the first electoral round in October, when Milei's rival, the current Minister of Economy, Sergio Massa, unexpectedly won. “They change the content of the ballot boxes and the documentation for others that they modify in favor of Sergio Massa, which considerably alters the electoral result,” denounced Karina Milei, without giving any proof of her claims.
In true Bolsonaro-Trump style, Milei's campaign then backtracked and signaled that it would not denounce fraud. Milei said yesterday when voting that he saw no signs of fraud, but the contradictions also define the tactic devised by the Machiavellian Bannon. In fact, according to Clarionthe far-right later noted: “Kirchenerism is going to use all its strength to cheat.”
It is not known whether, in the quite likely event of a narrow victory for Massa, accusations of fraud will resume. “They are absolutely unfounded, but they generate a climate that attempts to be one of distrust,” said Sebastián Schimmel, secretary of the National Electoral Chamber (CNE), in statements to the newspaper La Nación.
There are other problems for those who want to bring Milei to the mainstream. Take, for example, the issue of the Holocaust. Although Milei waved a huge Star of David flag at one of her rallies, she has praised the support of neo-Nazis. “I carry books from Bochaca,” sings the punk group in their tribute song to the candidate “Javier Milei, superhero of freedom.” It refers to Joaquín Bochaca, author of a book titled The Myth of the Six Millions.
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