The Daily Telegraph

Argentina elects hard-right Milei as president

- By Harriet Barber in Buenos Aires

ARGENTINA has voted hard-right candidate Javier Milei to rule as its next president after a divisive and bitter election.

Before the results were formally announced, his counterpar­t Sergio Massa conceded defeat and congratula­ted Mr Milei on his victory. Mr Milei will take control of the country on December 10.

Mr Milei – a relative political outsider and libertaria­n economist – has pledged to make radical changes to the country and smash up the economic orthodoxy.

Amid rampant 142 per cent inflation and spiralling poverty rates, he campaigned on dollarizin­g the economy, dismantlin­g the Central Bank, slashing social subsidies and halving the number of government ministries.

He heavily criticised what he calls the country’s “corrupt political caste”, and has vowed to cut ties with China – one of the South American country’s biggest trading partners – aligning instead with the United States.

The election was highly polarised, with thousands attending mass protests against many of Mr Milei’s proposals and comments, and voters tussling over opposing ideologies in neighbourh­ood rallies.

Mr Milei, a self-proclaimed “anarcho-capitalist”, sparked fierce debate for denying crimes committed by Argentina’s 1976-83 bloody military dictatorsh­ip. He also pledged to hold a referendum on revoking abortion access, and said he will privatise state institutio­ns and loosen gun restrictio­ns.

In the week leading up the election, the 53-year-old backtracke­d on some of his most controvers­ial policies, in a lastditch bid to appeal to moderate voters.

His recalibrat­ion came after he scored a disappoint­ing first-round election result in October, taking 30 per cent compared to Mr Massa’s 37 per cent, and below pollsters’ expectatio­ns.

Mr Milei was aided in his bid to attract moderate voters after centre-right candidate Patricia Bullrich was eliminated after the first round and urged her 24 per cent electorate to support Mr Milei’s La Libertad Avanza party.

Mr Massa, meanwhile, was largely seen as the continuati­on candidate of the current government, a deeply unpopular administra­tion which has been blamed for the economic crisis.

Facing off against Mr Milei’s fervent rallies and chainsaw-wielding stunts, Mr Massa had attempted to portray himself as the ‘sensible’ option and had promised to create a government of national unity. But many voters viewed him as fickle and incapable of delivering the change Argentina needs.

At a polling station in the neighbourh­ood of Villa Crespo on Sunday morning, Romina Bernal, aged 28, told the Telegraph that Mr Massa was the only candidate who would guarantee workers’ rights and a stable democracy.

“Milei vindicates a genocide, vindicates the dictatorsh­ip,” Ms Bernal said. “It is about more than the economic crisis – that can be remedied – but we must be on the side of memory, truth and justice.”

As Mr Milei cast his own vote on Sunday afternoon, tensions escalated with supporters swarming their wild-haired idol, launching fireworks, and chanting “Milei Presidente”.

One young woman, whose apartment looked down on the scene, threw a drink down onto Mr Milei’s car and screamed out the number of those who were killed by the dictatorsh­ip.

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