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Elections in Argentina: a campaign that empowers Milei and Massa

From a three-thirds election where we witnessed a technical tie in the last national primaries between the libertarian force Liberty Advances (LLA) with 29.86% of the votes, Together for Change (JxC) with 28%, and the ruling Union for the Fatherland (UP) with 27.28%, a series of questions arose: Why this result? Why did the polls fail again? Why did Milei’s Liberty Advances, from third force, climb to first? Why did Kirchnerism reach a technical tie when its candidate is the minister of a quasi-hyperinflationary economy? Or why did Together for Change, which has been the organized opposition, obtain much less support than expected?

A bit of memory

Milei and Bullrich, the candidates of the right and far right, maintained an excellent relationship until the August 13 primaries. They have frequently coincided on various issues such as the defense of the free market, disapproval of state regulations, the need for tougher policies to fight crime or curb street protests, and they have even invited each other to be part of the same space.

But after the primary elections, it was surprisingly revealed that Milei, who individually obtained 29.86% of support, against Bullrich who received 16.81%, and Massa 21.43%, has high chances of becoming the future president. Thereafter, Milei began to distance himself from Patricia Bullrich and to delegitimize her as leader of the organized opposition since 2015.

Milei, who expresses himself mostly through social networks, has expressed loudly, that Patricia Bullrich is “a gangster, bomb thrower and Peronist”, appealing to the past of the JxC leader, who militated in Peronism and was a guerrilla in her youth. Milei also mentioned Bullrich as a “caste”, assimilating her to the rest of the politicians and especially to Kirchnerism. However, although he disqualifies her, he does not seem to confront her but, on the contrary, he downplays her importance in order to position himself as the true opposition to Kirchnerism.

The strategies of the three candidates for October 22nd

Although the internal elections made it clear that the extremists triumphed (the reactionary Javier Milei of Liberty Advances was the one who obtained the most votes; the hardliner of JxC, Patricia Bullrich, beat the soft Rodríguez Larreta; Sergio Massa ultra Kirchnerist version of UP achieved a high performance), following the electoral logic of all times, we could suppose that the centripetal forces will operate in a general contest. Within this framework, Juntos por el Cambio, from the most sensible post-primary moderation, could attract voters from both extremes and increase their chances of winning.

Under this possible premise, the libertarian force LLA, which has been perceived as the winner since the primaries, seems to deduce that it would be easier to win in a runoff against the pro-government UP. While UP deduces that it would be easier to win in a ballot boxes against LLA. And so we have been observing a post-primary situation in which Milei and Massa insist on demonstrating, before public opinion, that they represent two opposing models of government and country. This is manifested in different speeches and in social networks. And in this sort of electoral ping pong, Bullrich seems to be a mere observer.

In the vice-presidential debate held on September 20, it was observed how the libertarian Victoria Villarruel, who accompanies Milei’s formula, and the vice-presidential candidate who accompanies Massa’s formula, Agustín Rossi, chose to confront each other.  During the debate, they came and went with all-kind, under a polarizing strategy that seems to be giving good electoral results in Argentina.

JxC, for its part, limits itself to minimally reprove the violent expositions of the libertarian Javier Milei against the coalition and devotes most of its energies to confronting Kirchnerism. And so Bullrich repeats, over and over again, that he comes “to end Kirchnerism forever”. In a recent spot, Bullrich seems to exhibit a model of a project of a mega maximum security prison (in the style of the one built by Bukele in El Salvador) as if to dispute the monopoly of “the hard hand” to Milei, but whose name would be “Dr. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner” (in allusion to the first instance conviction of the current vice-president).

In the already mentioned vice-presidential debate, the candidate that accompanies Bullrich, Luis Petri, limited himself to reprove Milei on a couple of occasions to dedicating the rest of the debate to emphasize that “without euphemisms, to end inflation first we must end with Kirchnerism, which is a machine of generating poverty and of putting sticks to those who produce in this country”.

Bullrich chooses again and again to polarize with Massa, because, under the assumption (reaffirmed by the results of the continuous polls that are so wrong) that Liberty Advances keeps the lead, its grouping and the Kirchnerist one must dispute the second place, in order to reach the second electoral round.

*Translated by Janaína Ruviaro da Silva from the original in Spanish.


Marketing Manager of FocusEconomics, a macroeconomic research consultancy. Master in Marketing, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Spain) and in Irish Literature, University College Dublin (Ireland). She has worked in NGOs and multinationals.


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