THE EXTREME RIGHT RECONQUERS ARGENTINA
Eventually it happened. Only two hours after the end of voting, Sergio Massa (presidential candidate of the centre-left Peronist coalition Unión por la Patria) publicly declared his defeat and congratulated the winner of the Argentine presidential elections of 19 November 2023: Javier Gerardo Milei is the new president of the Republic.
With him wins the exasperation and sense of impotence of millions of Argentines living through one of the darkest periods in the country’s troubled recent history, plagued by recurring economic crises that have brought it to the brink of bankruptcy. Today, inflation is at 140% and one US dollar is enough to buy as many as 1,000 pesos, whereas only three years ago it was enough to buy 80 . The fear of seeing the foundations of democratic institutions seriously undermined is defeated by the irrepressible need to take a break from the Peronism that has been in power for the last twenty years, which has proved incapable of designing adequate solutions to solve the structural problems of a constantly ailing economy. Milei’s closeness to the extreme right-wing conspiracy international, whose members include Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, former presidents of the US and Brazil, and his denialist views on the massacres carried out by the military dictatorship in his own country are dismissed by his voters as secondary elements, in the face of the hope that he will live up to the promises he made during the election campaign: Radical reduction of taxes, dollarisation of the economy, privatisation of state industries, reduction of the number of ministries from 18 to 8 for a planned reduction of public spending by 15% of the Gross Domestic Product. Among the ministries that are expected to disappear are those of Education, Health and Social Development: all sectors of public life, with the exception of justice and internal security, will be regulated by contracts between private individuals . It is not known how much of the electoral programme will be realised, not least because of the small number of seats its movement La Libertad Avanza (LLA) has in the two branches of Congress after the general elections of 23 October 2023: 38 out of 257 in the House (it had 2 previously) and 8 out of 72 in the Senate (not present previously), a figure that will force the new president to come to terms with the other big loser of this electoral round, namely the centre-right coalition Juntos por el Cambio, led by Patricia Bullrich, which loses 23 seats in the House – from 116 to 93 – and 9 in the Senate – from 33 to 24 . Between Bullrich and Milei there has been no lack of friction in recent months, which has benefited the latter far more than the former, as many of the seats in parliament lost by Juntos por el Cambio have passed into the hands of La Libertad Avanza. Given the electoral results of the elections for the renewal of Congress, which do not see any coalition in a position of absolute majority, the great unknown hovers over the new president’s future as to his ability to negotiate with his opponents the conditions of governability and to impose his own governmental agenda on Congress.
How far the new junta succeeds will also depend on the contribution of the newly appointed vice president, Victoria Villarruel. Villarruel is a lawyer and president of the Centro de Estudios Legales sobre el Terrorismo y sus Víctimas (CELTyV), which aims to recognise the victims of terrorist acts carried out by the guerrilla organisations that led the revolutionary war in Argentina from 1969 until the military junta seized power . Villarruel, to whom Milei would like to entrust the posts of Chief of the Armed Forces and Head of the Argentine Military Police, is the daughter of Eduardo Villarruel and great-granddaughter of Ernesto Villarruel, military officers who participated in the repressive actions of Videla’s military junta; she defends in several military trials accused of crimes against humanity such as Miguel Etchecolatz, Director of Investigations of the Buenos Aires Provincial Police, one of the most infamous torturers of the time of the dictatorship , denying on several occasions the state terrorism and genocide symbol of that time , going so far as to affirm, like Milei himself, that the actual number of people who disappeared under the regime was 8.000 and not 30,000 as estimated by human rights organisations , despite the fact that the Argentine army itself confirmed, in 1978, the killing of 22,000 people .
The ‘fearful caste’, as Milei’s followers call the political class, makes way for change. In the hope that it will be the least destructive possible. For democracy not only in Argentina, which continues to be alive, it is still not a good time.
 Edelman Global Advisory – 2023 Elections in Argentina: Results of the General Elections | October 23, 2023 https://www.edelmanglobaladvisory.com/sites/g/files/aatuss676/files/2023-10/Argentina%20-%202023%20General%20Elections%20%26%20Results_0.pdf