Milei in the pantheon of populist gods

The anarcho-capitalist has prevailed. His mantra: “Long live freedom, damn it!” » Sticking with Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, Javier Milei is making history, that of our democracies which are dangerously disrupted, with noise and the promise of shattering everything. Undeniable victory: 55.7% of the votes, against 44.3% for Sergio Massa, candidate of a breathless Argentine social democracy. The triumph, supported by a participation rate of 75%, is such that Milei came first in 21 of the 24 provinces, which is electorally remarkable, and that he almost won in that of Buenos Aires, heart fighter of Peronism. “Hope shines again in South America,” Brazilian Bolsonaro published on X.

A significant coincidence: the new president will take office on December 10, exactly 40 years after the end of a ruthless dictatorship (1976-1983) which would have left up to 30,000 people missing, but including him and his running mate, Victoria Villarruel, went so far as to relativize crimes against humanity in the campaign.

What is his victory a sign and symptom of? Anti-system, ultraliberal, neofascist, libertarian, anti-feminist and climate negationist, Milei ticks all these boxes quite a bit, he who arrived in active politics only three years ago by entering through the door of notoriety on TV and on social networks. However, the fear he inspired was ultimately no match for the lamentable failure of Peronism (the center-left political culture articulated from the 1940s under President Juan Domingo Perón). to get the country out of the socio-economic debacle. To promise as an antidote to this collapse (143% inflation over one year and 40% poverty) to dollarize the economy, to privatize public companies like the oil company YPF and to radically reduce the financing of public services, including in health and education, he will have succeeded in channeling the absolute fed up of voters with regard to a “dominant caste” long deemed corrupt. Sergio Massa, Minister of the Economy, had little other strategy left than to brandish the scarecrow of chaos and the extreme right – as Emmanuel Macron did in France, with more success. .

Something crucial has happened since the first round of the presidential election, held a month ago and at the end of which Massa came out on top: the normalization of Milei’s candidacy by the traditional right, which had supported him. hitherto copiously denigrated. First, thanks to the rallying of center-right candidate Patricia Bullrich, who came third in the first round with nearly 24% of the votes. Then with the “unconditional support” given to him by former president Mauricio Macri (2015-2019), whose visceral opposition to Peronism is proof of everything. Very disturbing is the fact that conservative figures from Latin America — such as former Mexican presidents Felipe Calderón and Vicente Fox and those of Colombia and Chile, Iván Duque and Sebastián Piñera — have also given their support to Milei. The Argentine right giving credibility to the one nicknamed “El Loco” (The Madman) and putting its electoral machine at its service, the second round gave rise to a massive postponement of Bullrich’s votes to Milei, who moreover made the effort to temper these vociferations between the two rounds.

Mr. Massa’s victory would have necessarily passed through the province of Buenos Aires, bastion of Peronism, where more than a third of voters are concentrated and where a good part of the population survives on insufficient social assistance and small jobs in the informal economy. . The fact that almost half of the voters in this province finally voted for Milei, who nevertheless promises to slash aid, is oddly revealing. This shows to what extent, expressed by the vote for ultra-liberal recipes, the feeling that the horizon is blocked is among poor Argentines, particularly among the youth.

So many Argentines see clearly that they were presented with a senseless, desperate choice. Plague or cholera? Dracula or Frankenstein? Here is Milei, inducted into the pantheon of populism, as a new god. Except by shaking up the cage, which he knows how to do very well, how will he go about governing? To manage the colossal and suffocating debt of 45 billion US dollars contracted with the International Monetary Fund? To create jobs and fight poverty? To make the country “a world power” again? His party, Liberty Advance, has only 38 deputies out of 257 seats in the Lower House and only 7 out of 72 in the Senate; he is to be expected to rule by decree. As he must expect to see civil society and unions go up to the barricades. Hot in front! Not content with hammering home Peronism, his voters found an outlet in Milei. They now expect miracles from him; it will inevitably disappoint a lot.

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