Argentine election produces two extremes


In the just past first round of the Argentine presidential and parliamentary elections, there were three important candidates with significant support.

Sergio Massa, currently minister of economic affairs in the cabinet of President Alberto Fernandez, officially represents the state socialism of the Peronist party Union por la Patria (Union for the Fatherland).

Patricia Bullrich, former minister of security in the cabinet of ex-president Mauricio Macri (2014-2019) stands for the conservative opposition under the umbrella organization Juntos per el Cambio (Together for Change).

Javier Milei with his instant party La Libertad Avanza (the Freedom is on the way) was the outside horse and represented radical economic liberalism and a kind of unconventional right-wing populism.

The election is taking place against the background of decades of economic stagnation in Argentina, with inflation of more than 100%, falling living standards, an increasingly eroding public service and rising crime. This is nothing new for Argentina, because the Peronists have ruled with one interruption for decades with the attitude that the state belongs to them and should be used to maintain networks and buy loyalty from the poor through welfare grants. The government then also increased the minimum wage shortly before the election despite high debt levels. There are quite a lot of similarities with the ANC of South Africa.

Despite the great dissatisfaction of many citizens, especially the youth, and the poor economic performance of the government, Mr. Massa, as a candidate of the established order, fared best with 36% of the vote. However, it can be attributed to the fact that the Peronists are a well-oiled machine when it comes to elections. Since many people work in the public service, despite all the poor management of the country, they are in favor of the status quo. The poor are also easily influenced by the Peronists’ promises and the power they have down to the ground level.

The Peronists are not just a party, it is, like the ANC, a broad mass movement with support groups such as trade unions, cultural organizations and associations that have a hold on many people. Another reason for Massa’s success was the polarization of the election campaign and the fear of drastic change under Milei, on which Massa was able to capitalize.

The runner-up, Mr. Milei, an economist and a one-man show who recently appeared on the scene, stands in everything for the counter-program of Massa and the Peronists. His campaign was very strongly focused on social media and he has a particularly strong following in the middle class and among the youth. He was able to consolidate 30% on him and with that goes through to the knockout round on November 18 against mr. Mass. Milei wants to apply radical economic reforms such as replacing the Argentine peso with the US dollar, massively reducing the civil service, bureaucracy and the welfare state and abolishing the Central Bank. However, he also has other demands that go down well with conservative voters, such as easier access to own firearms and making abortion more difficult.

Mrs. Bullrich could only get 24% of the votes, but her support will be decisive for the knockout round. She has many times expressed her dislike for the Peronists and Mr. Mass expressed and promised change, so she will probably mr. Milei as the lesser evil prop. However, the outcome is still completely open and the Peronists’ ability to mobilize should not be underestimated at all.