- Javier Milei is Argentina’s new president, having won about 56 per cent of the vote in Sunday’s election.
- He embraces his maverick status and his campaign on social media was helped by his colourful antics and quotes.
- Milei may have stirred up excitement, but he’s been described as “a risky gamble” given Argentina’s economic woes.
When Argentine libertarian Javier Milei announced his entry into politics in 2020 in a bid to “blow up” the system, few predicted that three years later the wild-haired economist and former TV pundit could reach the presidency.
Milei has railed against the “thieves” of the political elite, praised gangster Al Capone for his free-market credentials and on live TV, smashed a piñata of the central bank, which he blames for contributing to Argentina’s triple-digit inflation and intends to shut.
The 53-year-old won Sunday’s election which who has since conceded defeat in a speech.
Results showed Milei on around 56 per cent of the vote and Massa on 44 per cent.
Argentina’s presidential candidate for the Union por la Patria party, Sergio Massa, conceded defeat to libertarian outsider Javier Milei. Source: Getty / Alejandro Pagni
Milei’s aggressive and theatrical style – from wearing superhero costumes to wielding a chainsaw to illustrate his plans to cut down the size of the state – has led some to compare him to former US president Donald Trump or .
Could Milei be the ‘change that Argentina needs’?
The new president is a unique product of Argentina, where an entire generation has grown up under an economy in a semi-permanent state of crisis.
That has sharpened this year, a sliding currency and rising poverty.
Against that backdrop, Milei and his Liberty Advances coalition have enjoyed a dramatic rise in support, especially among the young.
He embraces his maverick status and his campaign on social media was helped by his colourful antics and quotes.
Milei has criticised Argentine as a socialist, mocked , and praised former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, little loved in Argentina for her role in the
“He is the change that Argentina needs,” said 28-year-old Milei voter Ayrton Ortiz at a rally in the capital Buenos Aires ahead of the election.
What are Milei’s policies?
Milei has the backing of the country’s main conservative bloc, including their eliminated candidate Patricia Bullrich.
That helped win key middle-ground voters on Sunday, but could also limit some of his more extreme plans.
Argentine president-elect Javier Milei celebrates with his sister and campaign manager Karina Milei after winning in the runoff election on Sunday. Source: AAP, EPA / Juan Ignacio Roncoroni
“In terms of political logic, I am a mistake, because what I have come to do is in fact stamp out the privileges of politicians,” Milei told Reuters in an interview last year when his presidential ambitions were starting to gain momentum.
“I don’t care who my rivals are on the ballot, I will beat them all.”
As well as shutting the central bank and installing the United States dollar as Argentina’s official currency, Milei favours laxer gun controls and tighter rules on abortion.
A ‘risky gamble’
Juan Gonzalez, a journalist and author of a biography on Milei, El Loco (The Crazy One), said ahead of the vote that the president-elect had stirred up excitement, but was a risky gamble given the high inflation, state debts rising and a looming recession.
“He is an unstable leader for an unstable country,” he said.
Milei’s detractors point to his lack of experience in political office, his dishevelled appearance – with hair that could be described as unkempt – and his expletive-ridden tirades that have targeted political rivals and the Pope.
“If Javier combed his hair neatly, if Javier didn’t get angry, would people ever have invited him to speak?” Diana Mondino, an economist on Milei’s team who will likely be his foreign minister, told Reuters ahead of the vote.
Milei appeared at dozens of campaign events wielding a chainsaw as a not-so-subtle symbol of the fiscal adjustments he plans to apply or else carrying a giant US$100 bill bearing his face to promote his plan for Argentina to adopt US currency.
Javier Milei wants Argentina to get rid of pesos and fully adopt the US dollar. Source: Getty / Tomas Cuesta
In the US, comedian John Oliver dedicated a recent segment of his show to lampooning him, while former Fox News host Tucker Carlson came to Argentina for a more favourable interview.
Mans’s best friend gave Milei his mission
Milei has a small circle of confidants, including his 51-year-old sister Karina, who is his campaign manager.
His other close companion was his dog Conan, who he paid $50,000 to clone after his death in 2017.
Milei claims it was Conan, contacting him through a medium, who gave him the mission to be president, and says his dogs are the “best strategists in the world”.
He now has at least four mastiff dogs: Murray, Milton, Robert and Lucas, named after liberal economists.