Populist Javier Milei was elected on Sunday as Argentina’s new president-elect, in an abrupt shift to the right for the South American country, with some comparing the new leader to former President Trump.
Milei clinched an estimated 55.7 percent of the vote over Economy Minister Sergio Massa in Sunday’s presidential runoff vote, marking the highest percentage that a presidential candidate has received since the country’s return to constitutional rule in 1983.
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Here’s what to know about Milei:
Recent arrival on political scene
Milei was a vocal critic of the government on television, but only entered the political scene in 2020, vowing to “blow up” the system and railing against the “thieves” of the political elites, Reuters reported.
Before this, Milei was a university economic professor and chief economist at Corporación America, a large business conglomerate that runs most of the country’s airports. He left this position in 2021 after winning a seat as a lawmaker.
Up until recent months, few political experts believed Milei had the chance to become president of Argentina. Yet, the 53-year-old economist has defied expectations, garnering wide support from Argentinians frustrated with the country’s rising inflation and socialist establishment, per The Associated Press.
A self-proclaimed ‘anarcho-capitalist’ libertarian
The South American country’s soaring inflation was a central focus of Milei’s campaign. He has proposed replacing the local currency, the peso, with the U.S. dollar, and has called to eliminate Argentina’s Central Bank.
Experts say such overhauls are unlikely with his party’s limited clout in parliament, but it reflects public frustration with Argentina’s soaring, with recent months seeing a sharp spike in consumer prices.
Describing himself as a “anarcho-capitalist,” Milei has proposed boosting the economy by loosening the country’s labor laws and making deep cuts in government, eliminating several ministries such as culture, women, health and education.
He has proposed reducing welfare payments while vowing to cut public works “down to zero,” per BBC News. His drastic proposals have inspired nicknames from critics who have dubbed him “El Loco,” or the madman.
Vow to shake up Argentine society
In addition to shaking up the Argentina’s government and economy, Milei has emerged as a fiery voice amid the global culture war.
Often appearing with unkempt hair and wielding a chainsaw on the campaign trail, Milei has promised to destroy the status quo.
He is a staunch opponent of feminist policies and abortion, which was legalized in Argentina in recent years, while also rejecting human responsibility for climate change.
In a televised appearance, Milei railed against Pope Francis, who is Argentine, calling him an “imbecile” for defending justice, according to The AP.
Comparisons to Trump
Milei’s proposals and rhetoric has frequently drawn comparisons to the views of U.S. conservatives, specifically former President Trump, whom he has praised on numerous occasions.
Milei’s proposal to reduce the size of federal government and calls for the purge of “political caste” from Argentina’s government have been compared to Trump’s calls to “drain the swamp” and take on the “deep state” in Washington.
The president-elect has also vowed to bring Argentina back to a past period of greatness, per the AP, similar to Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” slogan. Milei’s followers often don hats with the words “Make Argentina Great Again.”
Trump on Sunday congratulated Milei for his victory, telling the president-elect he will “turn [his] country around and truly Make Argentina Great Again.”
Other conservative public figures celebrated Milei’s win. Former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson reposted a photo with Milei after his win, while conservative pundit Ben Shapiro shared news of the election, writing “Awesome news.”
Conservative firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) congratulated Milei on X, formerly Twitter, and wrote, “Argentina God bless you!!”