On Sunday 19 November 2023, far-right politician Javier Milei was elected President of Argentina. The outsider, whose political strategy and public demeanour continue to be repeatedly labelled as disruptive and aggressive, managed to sweep a 55.69 per cent majority compared with his rival, the finance minister Sergio Massa, who received 44.3 per cent.
Milei is a highly divisive character, one who some fear will further exacerbate the already mounting financial and social crisis Argentina finds itself in. Argentina is the second largest economy in South America, and currently, it’s in “intensive care” and urgently needs to lower inflation. According to Reuters, Argentina’s inflation rate hit 138 per cent annually in September 2023 and is still rising, with prices climbing above 12 per cent in the last two months.
Javier Milei has been in the public eye for quite some time now, initially gaining recognition as an economist and author in the 90s and early 2000s. Rocking what can only be described as a bird’s nest for a hairdo, Milei soon switched his attention to a life of showbiz, forming a notable presence for himself on television.
Primarily, Milei rose to fame by taking part in highly disorganised and anti-political on-air debates, wherein he would throw countless insults at his opponents and basically revert to childlike rants mid-conversation. It was this particular rhetoric and style that prompted commentators to start likening Milei to none other than former US President Donald Trump.
Similarly to Trump, the Argentinian politician has always had a knack for employing particular phrases and narratives that further embolden extremists, and galvanise those who might already be questioning their government’s actions. Indeed, Trump’s political success has always largely been associated with his ability to weaponise fear and use it for his own personal gain—Milei’s rise to power is highly comparable. From their coincidental ability to omit facts to their insistence on employing inflammatory language whenever possible, these two are practically one and the same.
Trump did indeed congratulate Milei on his win, posting on his social media platform Truth Social that he is “proud” of the Argentinian.
In the eyes of many Argentinians, Milei is the only way out of the country’s economic crisis. The situation is truly dire and Milei’s campaign centred on the promise of bringing Argentina back to its former glory, stating in his acceptance speech: “Argentina will return to the place in the world which it should never have lost.”
Again, we can see the clear similarities between Milei’s success and Trump’s. When facing serious financial difficulties and soaring inflation, citizens often prioritise the candidate that they believe will disrupt the status quo—this frequently results in politicians with highly unstable politics and unpredictable personalities gaining power.
Benjamin Gedan, the head of the Wilson Centre’s Argentina Project, spoke with The Guardian and revealed that he believed one specific word explained the scale of Milei’s victory: desperation. “A lot of Argentines voted knowingly against their economic interests because they recognise that the status quo is catastrophic. And there was no reason to believe that the current finance minister could plausibly be the answer. It’s a huge gamble but not a completely irrational one,” Gedan explained.
The expert continued: “The real risk is that Argentina melts down in its attempt to radically transform the economy. That would look like massive social unrest, national strikes by unions, potential political violence and stresses against democratic institutions. There is a pretty dark scenario if, in fact, he pursues aggressively his maximalist vision for Argentina.”
The thing is, no one is entirely sure what Milei’s term will look like. It’s hard to predict what a man who refers to himself as “the lion” and “the king of the jungle” has in store for the country. We can, of course, take a guess. Some of Milei’s most wild and erratic political statements have included gutting the government, a thinning-out process that he has often visibly demonstrated by carrying a chainsaw around with him at rallies, banning abortion, and wholeheartedly rejecting the notion of climate change.
While Milei appears as though he is all for the people, his complete lack of political experience and extreme wealth of narcissism will most likely result in a highly unstable environment for the entire population—one that will only further worsen the economic problems. With a complete disregard for structure, democracy will certainly dwindle.
Oh, and Milei has also been frequently spotted wearing a “Make Argentina Great Again.” Overall, it’s basically not looking great.
A number of people have wondered if Milei’s win might also further embolden support for Trump in the US. The disgraced businessman is currently campaigning to be considered as the Republican candidate for the 2024 US Presidential election. Will the far-right insurgence in Argentina help solidify US citizens’ support for Trump? Who knows, but it’s definitely a possibility. Conservatives are known to be heavily influenced by other nations outwardly supporting their politics, so Milei’s success story might just help Trump clinch the Republican nomination.