Javier Milei: ‘There is no room for gradualism’

The far-right libertarian economy won Argentina’s 2023 presidential run-off by 12 percentage points on Sunday

Far-right libertarian candidate Javier Milei gave a restrained victory speech on Sunday night after early results showed him winning the Argentine presidential run-off with 56% of the vote (98% counted). 

Milei was welcomed to the podium by his sister Karina, who will reportedly become the country’s first lady.  The economist cum congressman took the stage to the sound of Vamos por la Gloria by La Beriso. Unlike during the August primaries and the first round of the elections in October, he stood onstage alone.

“Today is the beginning of the end of Argentina’s decline,” he said in LLA’s campaign headquarters at the Libertador Hotel in Buenos Aires.“Today we turn the page and return to a path we should never have strayed from. Today we embrace the ideas of liberty once again [which] made us the world’s number one superpower in the 19th century.”

Sunday’s shocking victory comes on the heels of Unión por la Patria (Union for the Homeland, or UxP)’s Sergio Massa victory in the first round by nearly seven points.

“They should shoulder their responsibility until the end of their mandate,” Milei said, referring to the current administration led by President Alberto Fernández. “That way, once it’s over, we can transform the tragic reality of millions of Argentines. 

“The changes the country needs are drastic,” he continued.“There is no room for gradualism, for lukewarmness, for half measures.”

The new president’s flagship proposals include dollarizing the Argentine economy, closing down the Central Bank, privatizing education and healthcare, and abolishing 11 ministries, including those of Culture, Environment and the Women, Gender, and Diversity.

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Both in his victory speech and during an impromptu address on the street, Milei thanked former president Mauricio Macri and PRO party leader Patricia Bullrich, formerly the presidential candidate for the opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change or JxC). 

After the two feuded heatedly on the campaign trail, Bullrich personally endorsed Milei days after her electoral defeat in the October 22 election. The move fractured the opposition coalition, with many criticizing Macri for actively endorsing the far-right libertarian. Milei described their backing of his candidacy as “a patriotic and generous move never seen before in Argentina.”

“I want to thank voting station volunteers from LLA and the PRO who stood their ground to defend the vote,” Milei said. 

In the days leading up to the run-off, members of LLA made unsubstantiated claims that the election had been compromised by fraud. They abandoned that narrative when rumors of Milei’s imminent victory began to spread.

A Herald request to La Libertad Avanza’s spokesperson for comment on Milei’s victory was not immediately returned. 

Massa delivered a concession speech earlier on Sunday night before the official results were published, saying that “Argentines chose another path” and announcing his retirement from politics.

After four years under Fernández’s center-left government, Milei drags Argentina’s window of discourse dramatically to the right. Fernández took office in December 2019, three months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and implemented a lengthy lockdown. The country has also struggled to repay a record US$44 billion line of credit from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) taken out by the previous administration of Mauricio Macri. 

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