An economist and television personality, Javier Milei, has been elected as the President of Argentina.
A right-wing libertarian with a radical view, Mr Milei defeated Sergio Massa, Argentina’s center-left economy minister to emerge the country’s leader in Sunday’s presidential election.
Milei, who rode a wave of voter anger with the political mainstream, won by a wider-than-expected margin.
With 95 per cent of ballots counted, 53-year-old Mr Milei won 56 per cent of the vote, while Mr Massa, 51, won 44 per cent of the vote.
Mr Milei, a political rookie, is coming on board as Argentina is rocked with an economic crisis.
In his victory speech, he said, “Today begins the reconstruction of Argentina. Today begins the end of Argentina’s decline.
“The model of decadence has come to an end, there’s no going back,” Milei said in a defiant speech after the result, while also acknowledging the challenges that face him.
“We have monumental problems ahead: inflation, lack of work, and poverty,” he said. “The situation is critical and there is no place for tepid half-measures.”
In downtown Buenos Aires hundreds of Milei supporters honked horns and chanted his popular refrain against the political elite – “out with all of them” – as rock music played from speakers. Some people set off fireworks as excitement spread.
“We came to celebrate this historic triumph,” said Efrain Viveros, a 21-year-old student from the province of Salta. “I’m honestly ecstatic. Milei represents change, for the better. With Massa we’d have had no future, our future has returned.”
Milei is pledging economic shock therapy. His plans include shutting the central bank, ditching the peso, and slashing spending, potentially painful reforms that resonated with voters angry at the economic malaise.
“Milei is the new thing, he’s a bit of an unknown and it is a little scary, but it’s time to turn over a new page,” said 31-year-old restaurant worker Cristian as he voted on Sunday.
Milei’s challenges are enormous. He will have to deal with the empty coffers of the government and central bank, a creaking $44 billion debt program with the International Monetary Fund, inflation nearing 150% and a dizzying array of capital controls.
Some Argentines had characterized the vote as a choice of the “lesser evil”: fear of Milei’s painful economic medicine versus anger at Massa and his Peronist party for an economic crisis that has left Argentina deeply in debt and unable to tap global credit markets.
Milei has been particularly popular among the young, who have grown up seeing their country lurch from one crisis to another.
“Perhaps not everything Milei says I agree with or can identify with but he is our future,” said Irene Sosa, a 20-year-old student celebrating outside his election bunker. “Milei represents a future for young people like me, Massa was everything that is wrong with our country.”
Milei’s win shakes up Argentina’s political landscape and economic roadmap, and could impact trade in grains, lithium and hydrocarbons. Milei has criticized China and Brazil, saying he won’t deal with “communists,” and favors stronger U.S. ties.
Despite that, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wished Milei luck and success after the result was announced, adding that it was important democracy was respected.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated Milei and said the libertarian would make Argentina great again.
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