Milei Has Already Changed the Terms of Argentina’s Political Debate

Milei Has Already Changed the Terms of Argentina’s Political Debate
A supporter of Javier Milei, presidential candidate of the Liberty Advances coalition, takes a photograph with his phone outside Milei’s campaign headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 13, 2023 (AP photo by Mario De Fina).

Ostensibly an open election for all political parties to choose their candidates, Argentina’s presidential primaries on Aug. 13 also offered a barometer of voter sentiment ahead of the first-round ballot in October. And the results came as a shock to the political establishment.

Finishing first among all candidates with 30 percent of the national vote was Javier Milei, a libertarian economist and former TV commentator who rails against the “political caste” and promises to drastically reduce the size of the state. Milei came out on top in 16 of Argentina’s 24 provinces, an impressive feat for a candidate that entered politics just two years ago and lacks a party structure in most of the country.

Second place went to embattled Economy Minister Sergio Massa, a Peronist and uncomfortable ally of Vice President—and former President—Cristina Kirchner, who finished with 21 percent. Coming in third with 17 percent was the winning candidate of the center-right Together for Change, or JxC, coalition, former Security Minister Patricia Bullrich. When all the Peronist and JxC votes are combined, however, the result was a virtual three-way tie, with Milei still enjoying a slight lead.

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