Political Earthquake in the Argentinian Primaries
On August 13th, the legally mandated primaries for the presidential election in Argentina took place. During these primaries, the candidates of the respective parties are chosen, who will compete for the presidency in the fall. The resulting political landscape is surprising, and the winner, Javier Milei, is highly controversial. The liberal-conservative Patricia Bullrich secured the third place, while her coalition "Juntos por el Cambio" ("Together for Change") came in second.
The results at a glance
Participation was the lowest in the history of primaries. Out of over 35 million eligible Argentine voters, 69 percent cast their votes. Twenty-six individuals from fifteen different parties and alliances entered the race. With 30 percent of the vote, Javier Milei of "La Libertad Avanza" (Freedom Advances) garnered the most votes. He was followed by Sergio Massa, who received 21 percent of the votes as a candidate, while his coalition "Unión por la Patria" (Union for the Homeland) secured a total of 27 percent. Additionally, Patricia Bullrich won 17 percent, and her "Juntos por el Cambio" received a total of 28 percent of the votes. Thus, the picture is extremely close when considering the distribution of votes among political forces.
Milei's victory equates to a political earthquake. Milei is politically right-leaning and self-identifies as "liberal, libertarian, and anarcho-capitalist." By positioning himself firmly against the Argentine political status quo, he managed to win the support of young people in particular. Even disenchanted voters are counted among his supporters. Economic analysts see the risk of financial market destabilization in a Milei presidency. Currently, the country is suffering from 115 percent inflation. He aims to close the Central Bank and use the US dollar as currency, without a clear implementation plan. In terms of societal policies, he opposes abortion and advocates for the liberalization of private gun ownership.
While Patricia Bullrich fell short of expected results, she significantly outperformed her party's internal competitor, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta. Bullrich has already held prominent positions in Argentine politics, such as Minister of Security under President Mauricio Macri. There, she distinguished herself with a tough stance on crime issues and a conservative-liberal approach to various social and economic topics.
For the ruling Peronists, who have dominated Argentina for decades, the results are a disaster. They are paying the price for a catastrophic left-leaning economic policy that led to a crisis.
Preparations and the campaign for the October 22nd elections are now underway, and several scenarios are conceivable. In the first scenario, there is no runoff election. In this case, a leading candidate must receive more than 45 percent of the votes or more than 40 percent and a lead of over 10 percent over the second option. The second scenario could come into play if the primary results are confirmed in a similar manner. In this case, a runoff election in November is likely. The media predicts that Javier Milei and Patricia Bullrich are the most promising candidates. Patricia Bullrich has also presented a clear reform program that is more realistic than Milei's but bolder than the cautious reforms undertaken by the conservative Macri government. If either of these options is realized, there will be a clear mandate for a reformist government. The reforms are as necessary as they are painful. The how and the what will be crucial in saving the country from an economic crisis.
One thing is clear: Argentina is at a crossroads, and the coming months will be key to argetinian future.
Nadia Barrozo is Project Coordinator, and Angelo Bardini is Communications Coordinator in Argentina.