Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

Javier Milei is the frontrunner in Argentina’s upcoming election. A polarizing far-right candidate who rails against the political establishment and promises to jumpstart the economy, Milei has drawn comparisons to former U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro.

Milei is a self-proclaimed “anarcho-capitalist” and libertarian economist, who has pledged to adopt the dollar as Argentina’s currency, brought a chainsaw to rallies to show he’s serious about cutting government spending, and is against abortion.

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Milei shocked experts by winning a primary in August, launching him to the front of the race. He’s appealed to the public, especially young people, amid discontent over a dire economy, with inflation skyrocketing above 100%.

Milei, from the La Libertad Avanza (Freedom Advances) party, faces off Sunday with center-right candidate Patricia Bullrich and the ruling coalition candidate Economy Minister Sergio Massa. A run-off in November seems likely, with Milei probably advancing, Christopher Sabatini, senior research fellow for Latin America at think tank Chatham House, predicts.

Ahead of the vote, here’s what you need to know about Milei and what his potential election could mean.

What is Javier Milei’s background and political history? 

Milei, 52, is a trained economist, professor and author, according to the World Economic Forum. He’s an outspoken anti-socialist in a country built on a generous social system, but one that’s struggled to remain afloat economically and owes billions of dollars to the International Monetary Fund.

Milei is a former TV talking head with a distinctive look that his hair stylist has reportedly compared to Wolverine. Milei entered politics in 2021 after winning election as a lawmaker in the lower house of Argentina’s Congress.

Local news outlets the Buenos Aires Times and iprofesional reported his record as a lawmaker was sparse. As of April, he had only been present for half the votes since he took office, another politician claimed on X.

As of August, he had not initiated any legislation or joined any committees, iprofesional reported. He had signed on to 13 draft resolutions, nine draft laws and six draft declarations. Most were related to repealing taxes, with one repudiating the country’s 2020 move to legalize abortion and another expressing concern for the Russia-Ukraine war.

Should he be elected, what policies does Javier Milei plan to put in place?

Milei has pledged to shake up Argentina’s financial and government structure to boost its economy. His most controversial proposal has been to replace Argentina’s currency, the peso, with the U.S. dollar.

Economic experts have debated whether this proposal is possible, with some saying the country doesn’t have enough liquid assets to make the shift. Others are divided on whether it would help the economy.

Milei also reportedly wants to cut science funding. In a 2021 interview, he was quoted as denying climate change, saying “global warming is another of the lies of socialism.”

Milei may well roll back the legalization of abortion, with local media reporting that he said two years ago “the only way I support the right to abortion is at risk to the mother’s life, because there is a property conflict.”

Milei has additionally questioned the estimated number of victims under Argentina’s former dictatorship, claiming the widely-accepted tally of 30,000 was fewer than 9,000, inciting outrage from victims’ families.

Who is Javier Milei’s running mate?

Milei’s running mate, Victoria Villarruel, is another Freedom Advances party member who entered Argentina’s Congress around the same time. 

She’s from a military family, El Pais reported. A lawyer who defended military officers charged with crimes against humanity, she founded the Center for Legal Studies on Terrorism and its Victims (CELTYV) in 2006 and has sparked controversy with her comments about “victims of terrorism.”

She opposes gay marriage and the country’s legalization of abortion, telling El Pais that “I defend the right to life, because life begins at conception.”

What would Javier Milei’s election mean for Argentina and foreign relations? 

Pablo Touzon, co-director of the Escenarios political consultancy in Buenos Aires, wrote for The World Today that outside candidate Milei would face an uphill battle to change the status quo at home. “He would have a minority in Congress, almost zero political pull among governors in Argentina’s federal system and no support within the judiciary or the media,” he said.

Milei has also said he will move Argentina’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, following Trump’s lead—a contentious decision that would likely be more polarizing now amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas War.

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