“Milei makes you believe he isn’t lying.”
“Massa embodies hope and the possibility of a government that includes everyone.”
These are statements made by supporters of presidential candidates Javier Milei (La Libertad Avanza, LLA) and Sergio Massa (Unión por la Patria, UxP). Each quote seemingly expresses what each of them has come to represent for their backers: while one sector feels that the solution to Argentina’s economic crisis lies in an approach based on national unity, the other shows anger and frustration with traditional politics.
Ahead of the November 19 run-off, the Herald spoke to Massa and Milei voters and asked them about their reasons for supporting each candidate. Massa, who is the current economy minister, is trying to win the election while simultaneously attempting to manage Argentina’s economic crisis.
Milei, on the other hand, has risen from fringe economist to presidential hopeful in record time thanks to his radical proposals. He has said he plans to dollarize the economy and “bomb” the central bank in order to eliminate inflation. He has also stated he would end Kirchnerism, the political faction led by Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Massa, a man “prepared to be president”
High school principal Francisco Limardo (56) and journalist Eva Rey (30) are both Peronists. They are voting for Massa because they say he values community, solidarity, and inclusion. For them, he represents “hope” of a better future for the country and Argentines.
It should be said that neither of them supports Massa per se, but rather the political sector he represents. They clarified that they are voting for him because he was chosen as the “unity” candidate by the UxP coalition, where Peronism is one of the major sectors.
During the speech he made after surprisingly coming in first in the October general elections, Massa said that “the political divide” is dead. He promised that, if elected, he would include politicians from other parties in his administration.
“I think he is very well prepared to fulfill [presidential] duties, especially when compared to his opponent,” Limardo says. “I see a lot of potential in him.”
Limardo has been a public school teacher for the past 34 years. He currently works at a high school in Virrey del Pino, Buenos Aires province. The prospect of Milei winning and implementing a voucher system for public education worries him.
Implementing a voucher system would mean that public schools and universities would stop being fully financed by the state. Students would receive state-issued vouchers equivalent to a certain amount of money, which they would then use to pay for their education. Institutions would depend on having enough students willing to pay them through their vouchers in order to continue operating.
Rey added that Milei shows hatred for Argentina and its people. She believes the country’s future is “at stake” and that Massa is “the better candidate.”
“I don’t think blowing everything up is a solution for Argentina’s problems,” Rey said, referencing a key part of Milei’s rhetoric.
Milei and the appeal of “truth-telling”
“He’s different,” says app-delivery worker Verónica Rea (20) when asked why she likes Milei.
Rea grew up in a Kirchnerist home and says she feels like she has lived in a world of lies. “They made us think we were bad people for thinking differently. That’s why we vote for him,” Rea tells the Herald.
“Milei came to show us that it is not wrong to tell the truth. Being ‘cruel’ is not wrong; acting ‘crazy’ isn’t wrong. Telling the truth is not being crazy.”
Electrician Julián Paradiso (28) says he is voting for Milei because of his libertarian ideas. And while he thinks Milei’s behavior might sometimes not be “pleasant”, he says he acts like that because he is “tired of corruption and of politicians stealing.”
The image of Milei holding a chainsaw has become world famous. His main electoral promises — “blowing up” the central bank and dollarizing the economy — would mean abolishing the Argentine peso, which he has called “excrement” on several occasions.
“Milei is the only one making proposals, regardless if they are good or bad,” Paradiso said, adding that Massa is “a disastrous” candidate and that he shouldn’t be the economy minister because he isn’t an economist.
The Milei proposals he supports the most are lowering taxes and funding public education through the voucher system. Paradiso views this as a way of ending what he called the “con” of public universities and forcing them to improve and compete in the education market.
Milei’s main proposal of dollarizing the economy, however, is not something Paradiso views favorably. “It’s completely infeasible, he says.”
Two models in dispute
Although generalizations don’t always show the full picture, political scientist Lara Goyburu says that the people interviewed by the Herald represent how a sizable chunk of Massa and Milei’s voters think.
While Massa’s voters believe national unity is needed to achieve a slow economic recovery, Milei supporters think that the way out of the crisis is through individual efforts.
“Massa’s voters are more worried about the protection of democratic values and rights than government policies or the economy,” Goyburu tells the Herald.
Milei voters, on the other hand, are “very tired” of politics and don’t believe it can solve their everyday problems. “Attacks on democratic values don’t seem to trouble them that much, because the economic crisis and political corruption are worse,” she states, adding that one of their motivations is a desire to end Kirchnerism, a political sector many people link to Massa due to his past.
Massa was Chief of Staff during Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s (CFK) first presidential term (2007-2011), but left the government in 2009 amid growing tensions. He created his own party, Frente Renovador, which had a strong anti-Kirchnerist stance. A peace of sorts was reached when Massa and his party joined UxP in 2019. That year, Massa ran on the UxP national deputies ticket, while CFK was running for VP within the same coalition. Massa was head of the Chamber of Deputies until he became economy minister in 2022.
“Even though Massa has distanced himself from some of the government’s decisions and says he will be in charge [if he wins], there is a part of society that is deeply anti-Kirchnerist. He can’t reach them,” Goyburu says.
Additional reporting by Facundo Iglesia