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Argentina Presidential Election: Milei and Massa Head to Run-Off Vote

Argentina's economy minister Sergio Massa has surpassed expectations, securing over 36% of the vote in Sunday's presidential election. This outcome positions him for a run-off contest against far-right candidate Javier Milei.

Argentina Presidential Election: Milei and Massa Head to Run-Off Vote

With most of the ballots counted in Argentina’s presidential election, no candidate has managed to secure over 45% of the votes, which is the threshold for an outright election. A financial crisis has plagued the country, and many pollsters expected voters to penalize the current president, Mr. Massa. Inflation in Argentina has soared to nearly 140%. Although front-runner Mr. Milei was leading in the polls before the election, he received 30% of the votes, falling short of his left-wing rival.

As a result, Argentines will have to choose between the two leading candidates in a follow-up vote scheduled for November 19. The voter turnout for Sunday’s election was 74%, according to local media. Pre-election polls in Argentina are known for their inaccuracy, and they failed to predict Mr. Milei’s rise in August’s primaries. There’s been a surge in support for the far-right politician, who has pledged to eliminate the central bank and replace the Argentine peso with the US dollar.

Mr. Milei also campaigned on shifting economic policies and reducing government offices to decrease bureaucracy. The current economy minister, Mr. Massa, and former security minister Patricia Bullrich were Mr. Milei’s main rivals ahead of Sunday’s vote. They are prominent figures in Argentina’s traditional coalition. Mr. Massa focused his campaign on defending the Peronist movement’s social and labor credentials, blaming austerity measures on the IMF debt run up by the previous administration.

The partial count indicates that right-wing candidate Ms. Bullrich received 23.8% of the votes, and she had pledged to restore “order” to the country. She previously served as the security minister from 2015 to 2019 during Buenos Aires’s center-right leadership. Addressing her supporters after her defeat, she criticized “populism” and Mr. Massa’s record. Now, the political landscape in Argentina faces uncertainty until the run-off on November 19.

Mr. Milei claimed that the election was “the most important in the last 100 years” and “historic.” Benjamin Gedan from the Wilson Center remarked that many Argentines have “suffered a lot in recent years,” making significant changes unappealing. The election results also included voting for new representatives for the lower house of Congress and new senators for the upper house. To win outright in the first round, a candidate needed to secure more than 45% of the votes or 40% with a 10-percentage-point margin over the closest rival.

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