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Argentina presidential election on a knife-edge

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Javier Milei, presidential candidate of the Liberty Advances coalition, speaks at his campaign headquarters after polls closed for general elections in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct. 22, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Argentine voters are angry and afraid.

Which is stronger will tip the balance of the South American country’s presidential election on Sunday and may reshape its diplomatic ties, economic future, and the wider region’s political fault lines.

The country of some 45 million people will vote in the Nov. 19 run-off election between Sergio Massa, currently economy minister for the ruling Peronists, and libertarian outsider Javier Milei. Opinion polls indicate a tight race and a deeply divided electorate.

On the ground in Buenos Aires and beyond there is fury with the government, which has presided over inflation racing towards 150% that has pushed two-fifths of the population into poverty. That has weakened Massa and driven the abrupt rise of his right-wing rival.

Up against this is fear of Milei, a wild-haired former TV pundit whose outspoken and aggressive style has led some to compare him to former U.S. President Donald Trump. He has often appeared at rallies brandishing a chainsaw, a symbol of his plans to slash state spending.

The two candidates offer vastly different visions for the future of the country, an important exporter of soy, corn, beef and lithium, the largest debtor to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) globally, and a rising producer of shale oil and gas.

Milei is a harsh critic of China and other leftist governments he loosely calls “communists,” including in Brazil; he wants to dollarize Argentina’s embattled economy and shut the central bank; and he opposes abortion.

Massa, a wheeler-dealer centrist in a left-leaning government, has portrayed himself as a defender of the welfare state and regional trade bloc Mercosur, but has the yoke of his failure to stabilize the economy around his neck.

“I am leaning towards…

2023-11-18 02:10:00

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