Javier Milei celebrates with his girlfriend Fatima Florez after winning the presidential election run-off
On Sunday, right-wing populist Javier Milei resoundingly won Argentina’s presidency, which has thrown South America’s second-largest economy into unknown territory and rocked Argentina’s political establishment. Up until just months ago, few political experts believed he had a real shot at becoming president.
According to provisional results, Milei handily beat Peronist economy minister Sergio Massa – 56% to 44% – with the outsider defeating the career politician. Massa conceded even before the electoral authority began announcing the preliminary results. Milei’s inauguration will be in December.
The 53-year-old, who fronts the La Libertad Avanza (Liberty Advances) coalition, sweeps to power against a backdrop of corruption and mismanagement that millions of voters blame for Argentina’s worst economic crisis in two decades, with annual inflation soaring above 140% and a poverty rate that reached 40%.
So who is he?
The former TV pundit and economist has been compared to right-wing populists Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil. A self-described “anarcho-capitalist”, Milei is in avowed libertarian who rails against “the ideals of socialism”.
Among some of his proposed policies, Milei has pledged to dollarise the economy: abolish the peso and Argentina adopts the US dollar instead. It’s a radical move that no country of this size has previously tried. He also wants to abolish the country’s central bank and privatise the pension system.
Milei’s vision of a small state includes eliminating half of the government ministries, including health and education. During his campaign, he revved a chainsaw to symbolically cut the state down to size.
The plans dovetail with his calls for the “political caste” to be purged from Argentina’s government, much as Trump spoke of “draining the swamp” in reference to getting rid of the establishment.
Before entering politics, Milei was chief economist at Corporación America, one of Argentina’s largest business conglomerates that, among other things, runs most of the country’s airports.
— La Libertad Avanza (@LLibertadAvanza) November 20, 2023
Make Argentina Great Again?
His fiery, profanity-laden rhetoric has already lifted him to prominence in the global culture wars. Milei opposes feminist policies and abortion, which Argentina legalised in recent years, and has proposed a referendum to repeal the law. He also rejects the notion humans have a role in causing climate change.
With echoes of Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan, Milei has said he will return the country to an unspecified period of greatness. “Argentina is going to reclaim the place in the world that it should never have lost,” Milei said at his victory rally on Sunday.
Javier Milei lifts a chainsaw next on the campaign trail in September
What else should we know?
Known to as “the wig” due to his unruly mop of hair, Milei refers to himself as “the lion”. He thinks sex education is a Marxist plot to destroy the family, views his cloned mastiffs as his “children with four paws” and has suggested people should be allowed to sell their own vital organs.
During his repeated television appearances, Milei didn’t just talk about economics and politics. He also delved into his personal life and once presented himself as an expert in tantric sex, openly discussing how he had repeatedly participated in group sex and providing tips.