Oct 24, 2023 - World

Sergio Massa's stunning lead and what's next in Argentina

Argentine economy minister Sergio Massa. Photo: Juan Mabromata/AFP via Getty Images

Argentines next month will vote in a runoff election between an establishment candidate currently in charge of the nation's crumbling economy and a right-wing member of Congress who promises to ditch the peso for the U.S. dollar.

Catch up quick: Economy Minister Sergio Massa on Sunday received the highest share of votes — 36% — defying polls that put his far-right challenger Javier Milei, a libertarian congress member from party La Libertad Avanza, ahead of all the candidates.

  • Milei got 30% of the vote.
  • The two are headed to a Nov. 19 runoff.

The big picture: Some analysts believed voters would connect his role as economy minister to the country's massive economic crisis.

  • But some voters may have backed Massa over fears that Milei's plans for privatization would hurt them in the long run, analysts say.
  • That concern might be a driving factor for voters in the runoff, says Federica Sánchez Staniak, a political scientist at the Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Chile.
  • Sánchez Staniak adds that voter discontent with both candidates might lead to a number of blank ballots. Voting is mandatory for Argentines ages 18 to 70 years old, but many leave their ballots blank as a symbolic protest.
  • Massa has campaigned on increasing infrastructure projects for exporting gas or lithium to net more revenue and has plans to ease taxes for small companies and to strengthen public education with STEM programs.

Between the lines: While Massa's strong finish assuaged some political observers' fears about a far-right rise in Argentina, Milei still got significant support.

  • Milei, who baselessly says climate change is a "socialist lie" and who wants to privatize state companies, has appealed to many voters — especially young ones — with his pledge to adopt the U.S. dollar and with his anti-establishment flair.

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