An eccentric economist with a fondness for Bitcoin, a cloned dog, and a desire to abolish the central bank has emerged as the leading candidate in Argentina’s open presidential primary. Javier Milei, who is seen as a front-runner in the upcoming general election, expressed his optimism upon hearing the results, stating that it marks the first step towards the reconstruction of Argentina. He emphasized the need for change and vowed to put an end to the current political system, which he described as useless, parasitic, and criminal.
In Argentina’s open primary, also known as the “jungle primary,” Milei secured 30% of all votes cast. In contrast, the ruling Peronist coalition, known as the Union for the Homeland (UP), came in third with 27% of the vote, while the conservative opposition bloc “Together for Change” received 28%. The Peronists have dominated Argentine politics for the majority of the past 20 years, during which the country has faced significant economic challenges and high inflation rates.
A notable figure within the ruling Peronist bloc, former president and incumbent Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, faced a blow to her popularity as she was convicted on corruption charges last December. This conviction further exacerbated the prevailing sentiment for change among the Argentine electorate.
Milei, 52, campaigned on an anti-Kirchnerism platform which has earned him the label of “far-right” by major English-language media outlets such as the New York Times, AP, and Reuters due to his libertarian political stance. His proposed policies include shutting down Argentina’s central bank and adopting the US dollar as legal tender, significantly reducing taxes and public spending, privatizing or closing state-owned enterprises, and abolishing several government ministries such as health, education, and environment.
Furthermore, Milei has expressed skepticism towards climate change, considers sex education to be anti-family propaganda, and supports the legalization of firearm ownership and the sale of human organs. It is worth noting that he has also shown support for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, viewing them as a natural reaction against what he calls “Central Bank scammers” and as a means to bring back the notion of private money.
One influential endorsement for Milei came from former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who highlighted their shared beliefs in private property, free speech, free markets, and the right to self-defense.
Milei’s unconventional personality and viewpoints seem to have endeared him to the Argentine electorate. In his victory speech, he expressed gratitude towards his sister for running his campaign and gave a special mention to his five dogs, four of which were cloned English Mastiffs named after his favorite libertarian economists.
Despite being the front-runner in the general election scheduled for October 22, Milei is unlikely to secure the 50% of votes necessary to guarantee victory. It is anticipated that he may advance to the November 19 runoff. However, the primary results suggest that his party, Liberty Advances, would only secure eight seats in the 72-member Senate and 35 seats in the 257-member House, leaving him with limited legislative support even if he were to win the presidency.
In response to the primary results, Argentina’s government devalued the peso by 20% on Monday morning. The country continues to struggle with economic challenges such as high inflation rates, widespread poverty (with almost 40% of the population living below the poverty line), and difficulties in repaying its $44 billion debt to the International Monetary Fund.
The upcoming months leading to the general election will undoubtedly be critical for Argentina’s political landscape, as Milei and other candidates present their visions for the country’s future. The outcome of the election will shape the nation’s economic policies, governance, and international relations moving forward.