For months, Argentina has been consumed by a single query.
Will Javier Milei — a far-right libertarian whose brash type and embrace of conspiracy theories have drawn comparisons to former President Donald J. Trump — be its subsequent president?
On Sunday, voters will lastly get to resolve.
Mr. Milei, an economist and former tv pundit, is dealing with off in opposition to Sergio Massa, Argentina’s center-left financial system minister, in a runoff election. Mr. Massa led the election’s first spherical final month, with 37 % to Mr. Milei’s 30 %. However polls counsel Sunday’s race is a useless warmth.
The backdrop to the competition has been Argentina’s worst financial disaster in many years, with annual inflation surpassing 140 %, behind solely Lebanon and Venezuela globally. Two in 5 Argentines now stay in poverty. The boys have supplied starkly completely different visions on reverse the financial morass within the nation of 46 million — a feat that no Argentine chief has been capable of accomplish for many years.
However the financial debate has been overshadowed by the rise of Mr. Milei, his eccentric character and his radical concepts to remake the nation.
With Mr. Milei now on the verge of the presidency, Sunday’s vote is a take a look at of energy for the worldwide far-right motion. Mr. Milei has welcomed the comparisons to Mr. Trump, in addition to to Brazil’s former right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro. And, like them, he has warned that if he loses, it might be as a result of the election was stolen.
Right here’s what you must find out about Argentina’s election.
Who’s Javier Milei?
Earlier than Mr. Milei, 53, was a presidential candidate, he was a frontman of a Rolling Stones cowl band, an economist with starkly libertarian views and a tv pundit identified for his fiery outbursts. In 2021, he was elected to Argentina’s Congress.
Mr. Milei has centered his marketing campaign on an financial overhaul that might contain slashing each spending and taxes, closing Argentina’s central financial institution and changing its foreign money with the U.S. greenback. Economists and political analysts are skeptical he would have the financial circumstances or political coalition mandatory to drag off such excessive change.
On the marketing campaign path, Mr. Milei has depicted his opponent, Mr. Massa, because the chief of a shadowy “caste” of political elites who’re stealing from common Argentines — and himself because the fearless outsider who will take them on. His marketing campaign occasions depict him as a roaring lion as his supporters chant, “The caste is afraid.”
But his eccentric character and pugnacious politics have usually attracted probably the most consideration. There have been his harsh assaults in opposition to the pope, his clashes with Taylor Swift followers, his claims of being a tantric-sex guru, his assertion that local weather change is a socialist plot, his dressing up as a libertarian superhero and his shut relationship along with his Mastiff canine which are named for conservative economists — and are additionally all clones.
Who’s his opponent, Sergio Massa?
Mr. Massa, 51, has spent his whole profession in politics, together with as a mayor, congressman and a cupboard chief to a president, swinging from the correct to the left and incomes a popularity as a pragmatist.
That’s the identical strategy he has taken through the presidential marketing campaign, touting his means to run the federal government, work with trade and construct a political coalition to repair the financial system.
However to many Argentines, he has little credibility on financial issues. He has overseen Argentina’s financial system for the previous 16 months, simply because it has cratered. Inflation has soared, and the worth of the Argentine peso has plummeted. In July 2022, when Mr. Massa was appointed financial system minister, $1 purchased about 300 pesos on the principle unofficial market. Now $1 buys 950 pesos.
Argentina’s woes hardly started with Mr. Massa. For many years, failed financial insurance policies, together with excessive authorities spending and a protectionist strategy to commerce, have left Argentina with one of many world’s most perpetually unstable economies, regardless of its considerable pure sources.
Mr. Massa blamed a document drought and $44 billion in worldwide debt for hurting so many Argentines throughout his run as financial system minister. “We misplaced half of our agricultural exports” because of the drought, he mentioned in an interview, “so the principle problem was to maintain the extent of exercise and employment.”
Argentina’s financial system shrank by 4.9 % within the second quarter of this 12 months, the newest knowledge out there, the primary decline after 9 consecutive quarters of development, wherein the nation rebounded from the pandemic. Unemployment has additionally largely fallen in current quarters, down to six.2 % by the tip of June.
What are their plans?
Mr. Milei’s platform is centered on his pledges to shut the central financial institution and dollarize the financial system. Throughout the marketing campaign, Mr. Milei would smash miniature variations of the central financial institution and maintain aloft large $100 payments along with his face on it.
Mr. Milei additionally had one other marketing campaign prop: a series noticed that he would wave round at rallies. The noticed represented the deep cuts he’s proposing to authorities, together with reducing taxes; slashing rules; privatizing state industries; decreasing the variety of federal ministries to eight from 18; shifting public schooling to a voucher-based system and public well being care to insurance-based; and reducing federal spending by as much as 15 % of Argentina’s gross home product. He has lately softened some proposals after blowback.
He additionally has mentioned he wish to ban abortion, loosen gun rules and largely minimize relations with any nation beside the US and Israel.
In an interview, Mr. Massa known as Mr. Milei’s proposals “suicidal” for the nation.
His plans for change are way more modest. Mr. Massa mentioned he desires to extend manufacturing of oil, gasoline and lithium; simplify the tax system; and cut back general spending whereas growing spending on schooling and job coaching. “Austerity,” he mentioned.
His requires austerity, nevertheless, have been undercut by his strikes in current months to chop taxes, give bonuses to employees and launch extra money to the poor. Critics have known as the insurance policies irresponsible patronage throughout an financial disaster.
What has Mr. Milei mentioned about election fraud?
For months, Mr. Milei has claimed, with out proof, that he was robbed of greater than one million votes in a main election in August, or 5 % of the whole. He has additionally mentioned that the primary spherical of the final election final month was rigged in opposition to him.
He has argued that fraudsters are stealing and damaging his ballots at polling stations, stopping his supporters from voting for him. (In Argentina, residents vote by inserting a paper poll of their most popular candidate into an envelope and dropping the sealed envelope right into a field. Campaigns distribute ballots with their candidate’s identify to polling stations.)
Election officers dispute Mr. Milei’s claims, and his marketing campaign has supplied little proof. His marketing campaign’s authorized director mentioned in an interview that he had direct data of solely 10 to fifteen written complaints from voters.
This previous week, Mr. Milei’s marketing campaign escalated its combat, submitting a doc with a federal decide that claimed “colossal fraud,” asserting that Argentine officers modified votes for Mr. Milei to Mr. Massa. The marketing campaign cited nameless sources.
Mr. Milei has overtly questioned the outcomes of the 2020 U.S. election and the 2022 Brazil election, which have been dogged by baseless claims of fraud that led to violent assaults on these nations’ capitols.
Now, Argentines are bracing for what might occur if Mr. Milei loses. His supporters have known as for protests outdoors the election company’s headquarters after the polls shut on Sunday.
On Friday, Mr. Milei mentioned Mr. Massa’s incumbent get together “is exhibiting very impolite indicators of desperation” and would almost definitely attempt to cling to energy if Mr. Milei wins. In that state of affairs, he added, his authorities “will apply justice with all due drive.”
Lucía Cholakian Herrera and Natalie Alcoba contributed reporting.