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Who Is the New President of Argentina?

by Ju Laclau Massaglia

On November 19, 2023, a new President was announced in Argentina after the third round of votes were scrutinised. Javier Milei defeated Sergio Massa in a ballotage with a turnout of more than 25 million people, which amounts to around 77% of the Argentinian citizens allowed to vote.

Agenzia Nova: Javier Milei winning the elections in November 2023.

These numbers include the 800,000 teenagers between the ages of 16 and 17 allowed to cast their vote due to the establishment of Law 26,774 in 2012. Although the average turnout is above 70%, the announcement of the National Electoral Chamber at 14:00 stating that 59% of the people registered to vote had already done so, marked a clear distinction with the primary elections on August 13 with a turnout of 69%, the lowest in the history of the country.

The elected President has announced a series of measures he intends to focus on after taking office on December 10 and during the next four years of his governmental period. There has been a special focus on the economic measures aimed at combating the current crisis.

In this regard, Milei has announced a 15% decrease in public spending that will be made possible by a ‘reorganisation’ of the institutions of the State. This would involve a reallocation of public spending that would increase the funding of all national institutions that defend public safety while cutting the money allocated to areas such as education, sciences and health, which he intends to privatise.

He believes all these changes, along with the elimination of several ministries — like the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation — will “increase efficiency and be less costly”. Additionally, he intends to get rid of the energy subsidies once the economy begins to recover.

Milei has also expressed his intention to get rid of the Central Bank as a means to stop the emission of Argentinian pesos to reduce inflation which is currently at about 142% per year and to reform the laws to allow people to operate in the currency they prefer — a clear contrast to the conversion restrictions imposed by his predecessors.

Ultimately, he has made his goal of ‘dolarising’ the economy public, which means replacing the local currency with dollars that are currently valued at 1,000 pesos a piece.

Carlos Rodríguez, one of the economists advising the elected President, has explained to local newspapers that one of the ways in which this switch would be financed is by selling companies currently owned by the Nation. “Everything that can be owned by the private sector will be owned by the private sector,” stated Milei during an interview with journalist Luis Majul.

This line of action has been compared to the steps taken by former President Carlos Menem, who privatised several public companies and fused or dissolved multiple institutions of the State during his time in office. However, remembering the social backlash and the strikes that such measures aroused during Menem’s presidency, Milei has announced he is willing to punish those “who oppose change in order to maintain their own privileges”. The elected President considers these measures unavoidable to prevent hyperinflation and the worsening of the economic crisis.

Regarding the issue of safety — which has become a major issue to the point where 1,200 aggressive robberies resulted in 22 deaths in the Province of Buenos Aires and the capital city alone during the first five months of 2023, — the elected President has stated his intention to reduce the age at which people can be convicted of a crime as well as the deregulation of the gun market and the imposition of a ban that would forbid foreigners with a criminal record from entering the country. Additionally, he intends to strengthen the “professional and moral authority” of institutions linked to public safety, which will enforce his “zero tolerance” policy against crime.

Adding to this, elected Vice President Victoria Villaruel has publicly supported lifting the ban imposed by former President Raúl Alfonsín after the military dictatorship. This law prohibits the Armed Forces from taking part in operations related to security within the territory of the Nation.

Polar Journal (Dec 11th 2023): Javier Milei and his new vice president, Victoria Villarruel.

Raised in a military family during the dictatorship, she firmly believes in having a “complete memory” under which she describes the military dictatorship as an “internal armed conflict” with two equally guilty parties: the soldiers in charge of the State killings and the “terrorist” left-wing Peronist guerilla who fought against them. However, according to her, the latter has not been punished due to the “dictatorship of the minorities” who have made ideologies such as hers “politically incorrect”. 

However, younger members of the military who have been educated during the democracy resent some components of the approach of the elected Vice President, such as the idea of repression which they consider a thing of the past. “We belong to a different generation and we find this upsetting,” a source within the Army told journalist Federico Rivas Molina.

“Why would we return to a discourse that still damages us 40 years later?” asked the source. Still, there are retired members of the army who support this line of thought and who have been promised pension benefits once the new government takes office.

When discussing foreign policy, Milei has stated he wants to form political alliances with “the free world” and leave any economic alliances to whatever private businesses consider best.

Additionally, he stated that he would decline the invitation to join BRICS, the intergovernmental organisation for emerging economies of which Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are part.

He also opposes the Pope due to his support of the previous government, but clarified that, if he were to visit Argentina, he would be welcomed “with the same honorary treatment as the Head of any State”.

Alongside Milei and Villaruel’s new positions, new Congress People have been elected for both the Southern Common Market and the National Congress.

Despite their success in the elections, the new governing party, Freedom Advances, will only occupy 7 benches out of 72 in the Senate and 38 out of 257 in the Chamber of Deputies. Still, due to alliances such as the one he formed with Juntos por el Cambio, the party directed by former President Mauricio Macri, he might be able to acquire a majority in Congress to pass the different laws and reforms he has been announcing.

CNN (October 23rd 2023): New configuration of the congress.

However, 142 seats in Congress, 108 in the Chamber of Deputies and 34 in the Senate will remain occupied by the previous ruling party, Union for the Homeland, headed by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Sergio Massa.



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