Argentines desperate for a way out of a devastating economic crisis began voting Sunday in a nail-biting election between their embattled economy minister. sergio massa and the libertarian outsider Javier Millay.
The two represent very different futures for Latin America’s third-largest economy, which is creaking under triple-digit inflation and poverty levels exceeding 40 percent.
No one is predicting the outcome, with polls showing the candidates in a tight race with Milley holding a slight advantage.
Some 36 million Argentines can vote until 6pm (9pm GMT), with results expected in a few hours. The new president will take office on December 10th.
Massa, 51, is a charismatic and experienced politician who is trying to convince Argentines to trust him despite his track record as economy minister, where annual inflation has reached 143 percent.
His rival, Mr. Millay, is an anti-establishment outsider who has vowed to end Argentina’s unchecked spending, ditch the peso for the US dollar and “dynamite” the central bank.
Ana Iparaguirre, a political analyst at GBAO Strategies, said Argentines were “on the verge of a nervous breakdown”, explaining the tension over what’s to come.
Most people are fed up with their choices and say they will have to choose the lesser of two evils.
Opinion polls show about 10% of voters are still undecided, and the election will be held over a long weekend, making turnout crucial.
Laura Coleman, 25, a nurse, said, “Neither of the two candidates has a good proposal. I voted for the candidate who would do the least damage to this country in a very complicated situation.” Ta.
-Mirei puts down the chainsaw-
Millais, a 53-year-old economist, is a political newcomer who surprised observers by bursting to the forefront of the campaign just a few months ago.
He is often compared to former President Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, and Massa has accused him of emulating both politicians by raising allegations of election fraud, although he has provided no evidence of this. It has not been.
Milley’s tirade against traditional political parties that have failed to halt decades of economic decline has galvanized voters who are fed up with the status quo.
“I hope Milay wins,” said taxi driver Daniel Ayala, 50, adding that he was “sick of the corruption” of the ruling Peronist coalition.
In the first election in October, Mr. Massa came in first place with about 37 percent, confusing the polls, while Mr. Millais received about 30 percent of the vote.
Both candidates are desperately trying to win millions of votes from the three unsuccessful candidates.
Patricia Bullrich, the third-place candidate from the powerful center-right opposition party, is throwing her weight behind Millais.
Millais toned down her rhetoric to appeal to more moderate voters, urging people not to give in to fear stoked by Massa’s campaign.
“If we’re afraid of being paralyzed… nothing will change. We’re not going to privatize health care and education, we’re not going to allow unlimited gun ownership,” he said.
He has previously said he intends to abolish these ministries completely and has favored making it easier to carry guns and even sell human organs.
The souped-up chainsaws he has been wielding at rallies in recent weeks, a symbol of his desire to cut public spending, are nowhere to be seen.
– A gentle alternative –
Massa represents the Peronist Coalition, a populist movement focused on state intervention and welfare programs that has dominated Argentine politics for decades.
He has sought to distance himself from highly unpopular and outgoing President Alberto Fernández and Vice President Cristina Kirchner, who was convicted of fraud last year. Both have disappeared from public view.
Massa has tried to portray himself as a gentle, statesmanlike figure, in contrast to Millais.
But analysts have accused him of abusing state resources to boost his electoral chances.
This includes using advertising to warn people that transport prices will rise under Millais, as well as cutting income taxes for almost everyone and giving cash transfers to millions of people.
~ “An incredibly deep hole” ~
Analysts warn that Argentina faces a tough road ahead no matter who wins.
Analysts say the tightly controlled devaluation of the peso is long overdue, and a shortage of dollars has led to shortages of fuel, medicine and even bananas in recent weeks.
With the central bank’s reserves in deficit and no credit lines available, the next government “will be digging Argentina out of an incredibly deep hole with very few resources,” said Wilson, director of Argentina projects in Washington. Benjamin Gedan said. center.