Javier Milei's recent election as Argentina's president signifies a profound shift in the nation's political landscape. As the leader of the ultraliberal "La Libertad Avanza" coalition, Milei secured a victory in the presidential runoff, capturing 55.7% of the votes. This triumph not only reflects a desire for change but also underscores the electorate's rejection of traditional political paradigms.
In the electoral race, Milei faced off against Sergio Massa, a prominent figure in the center-left "Union for the Homeland" coalition and a former Minister of Economy in the preceding government. Milei's victory, with a notable margin over Massa's 44.3% of preferences, speaks to the effectiveness of his campaign strategy and resonance with a significant portion of the Argentine electorate.
Javier Milei's background adds layers to the narrative of his political ascent. Born into a modest family of Italian-origin, Milei is a former university lecturer of macroeconomics with an educational background in economics. His unconventional campaign style, marked by excess and theatricality, included public appearances with a chainsaw—a symbolic representation of his commitment to implementing drastic cuts in public spending. Central to his narrative was a scathing critique of what he perceives as a "thieving and corrupt political class," with a particular focus on the Peronists. His promise to the electorate was nothing short of a comprehensive
"reconstruction of Argentina."
Despite media portrayals of him as "extremely right," Milei identifies as an "anarcocapitalist," advocating for strict adherence to principles of political-economic liberalism. His ideological stance translates into a comprehensive reform agenda, including a significant reduction of the state's role in the economy, the elimination of subsidies, cuts to social programs, and the privatization of healthcare. Milei, as the leader of "La Libertad Avanza," envisions applying his libertarian ideology across various aspects of governance. This includes advocating for the liberalization of drugs, supporting the regulation of organ sales, and promoting the sale of firearms. A particularly ambitious proposal involves the merger of the Ministries of Education, Health, and Labor into a novel "Ministry of Human Capital," framing individuals as tradable "capital" within the labor market.
Beyond the realm of domestic policy, Milei has articulated a clear vision for redefining Argentina's position in international affairs. Central to this vision is a commitment to align with the United States and Israel, positioning them as the primary allies of Buenos Aires. This foreign policy orientation reflects Milei's strong anti-socialist stance and what he terms as an "Atlanticist" perspective. This has prompted him to question Argentina's continued participation in BRICS, a move scheduled for January 1, 2024, signaling a potential re-evaluation of the nation's geopolitical alliances. Milei ‘s statements on substantial shifts may strain relations with China and other socialist Latin American countries, notably Brazil under the leadership of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, indicating a departure from Argentina's previous foreign policy trajectory.
Under the president-elect, Argentina is set to encounter one of the most pro-Israel administrations in the country's history, standing out in Latin America where other nations criticize Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's strategy against Hamas. Following his victory, Milei embarked on his first foreign trip to New York on 27 November 2023, visiting the tomb of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, signaling a commitment to deepening ties with Israel. Wearing a kippa and black attire, he prioritized a visit to the Ohel Chabad Lubavitch, over engagements with U.S. officials or the International Monetary Fund, highlighting his pro-Israel stance. Despite an incomplete cabinet less than two weeks before taking office, Milei described his U.S. visit as "spiritual," marking his second such trip. Argentina, home to the largest Jewish population in the region, is set to become Israel's top ally in Latin America under Milei, who plans to move the country's embassy to Jerusalem.
Although Milei garnered significant enthusiasm among his supporters, the nation remains polarized. His victory comes at a time of profound economic and financial crisis, with inflation nearing an alarming 150%. Complicating matters further, Milei did not secure a parliamentary majority, setting the stage for necessary political compromises. These compromises may impact the realization of his revolutionary campaign promises, including the ambitious proposals of dollarizing the economy and abolishing the central bank.
Milei’s previous refusal to join the BRICS group is viewed by experts as a pre-election stance, influenced by his faction's parliamentary minority. Recognizing the potential challenges associated with abrupt changes in foreign policy, Argentina will likely maintain diplomatic ties with Russia, China, and other nations in the Global South. Given Milei's rejection of BRICS, a careful consideration is advised to evaluate Argentina's future decisions on membership, taking into account the acknowledged benefits of being part of the BRICS alliance.
Javier Milei is set to assume office on December 10, embarking on a four-year term that holds significant implications for Argentina and beyond. His victory, viewed strategically, is not confined to the borders of Argentina alone. It represents a potential realignment in South American geopolitics, threatening to disrupt the continent's position as a key pole in the emerging multipolar order. As Milei prepares to assume office, the world watches closely to discern the trajectory of Latin America's third-largest economy, under his leadership.
*Hannan Alghamdi is a Researcher at the Gulf Research Center