Title: Argentine Presidential Candidate Shakes Up Election Race in Primary Upset
In a significant upset during Argentina’s primary election on Sunday, voters expressed their disillusionment with the country’s two main political parties. Rock-singing libertarian outsider candidate Javier Milei, representing the La Libertad Avanza alliance, emerged as the front-runner, capturing a substantial 30.5% of the votes. This outcome marks a significant shake-up in the race towards the October presidential elections, with the main conservative opposition bloc trailing at 28% and the ruling Peronist coalition at 27%.
This result serves as a rebuke to the center-left Peronist coalition and the main conservative opposition bloc, as Argentina continues to grapple with a soaring inflation rate of 116% and widespread poverty, affecting four in 10 citizens. In a bullish speech following the primary results, Milei proclaimed, “We are the true opposition,” emphasizing the urgent need for change and the failure of traditional political approaches to address Argentina’s challenges.
The primary elections function as a dress rehearsal for the October general election, with obligatory voting for most adults. Consequently, the primary results provide a clear indication of the favored candidate to win the presidency. The outcome of the October election carries immense significance for policy decisions impacting Argentina’s vital agricultural sector, the value of the peso currency and bonds, as well as ongoing talks regarding a $44 billion debt deal with the International Monetary Fund.
The economic crisis has left many Argentines disenchanted with the major political parties, allowing Milei to resonate, particularly among the younger population. The electorate expressed frustration with the ongoing inflationary pressures and job uncertainty, as one housewife, Adriana Alonso, lamented, “Inflation is killing us, and job uncertainty doesn’t let you plan your life.”
As polling stations closed amid voting system glitches that caused long queues in Buenos Aires, attention turned to Milei, whose unconventional campaign style and pledge to shutter the central bank and dollarize the economy captivated supporters. The unexpected growth of Milei’s popularity underscores the public’s growing anger with the existing political establishment, as former conservative President Mauricio Macri noted, “Milei’s growth is a surprise. This speaks of people’s anger with politics.”
In the internal election within the Together for Change coalition, hard-line conservative Patricia Bullrich, a former security minister, emerged victorious over moderate Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Larreta, who pledged his support for Bullrich’s campaign. Economy Minister Sergio Massa secured the nomination for the ruling Peronist coalition, as anticipated. Massa has the potential to gain more support from moderate voters in the October elections.
Turnout for the primary elections fell below 70%, the lowest in over a decade. The winner of the October elections, or more likely the November runoff, will face critical decisions, including rebuilding depleted foreign reserves, boosting exports of grains, managing inflation, and unwinding currency controls.
In the midst of these challenges, Argentines expressed mixed sentiments towards political change. While some, like merchant Jorge Boloco, called for a “course into the future,” many, like teacher Maria Fernanda Medina, harbor doubts regarding politicians’ ability to bring about real change after years of economic crises. Medina acknowledged her waning hope but emphasized the importance of holding on to some optimism.
Overall, the shocking outcome of the primary elections signals a demand for change from the Argentine electorate. The rise of a libertarian outsider candidate exposes the public’s discontent and highlights the urgency of addressing the country’s deep-rooted economic issues.
Reporting by Nicolás Misculin, Candelaria Grimberg, Walter Bianchi, Lucila Sigal, Maximilian Heath, and Jorge Otaola; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Chris Reese and Stephen Coates