Javier Milei, a libertarian economist and rock singer, has emerged as the surprise winner of Argentina’s primary election, shaking up the political landscape of the South American nation. Milei, who advocates for a radical reduction of the state and the dollarization of the economy, topped the poll with 30.5% of the vote, ahead of the main conservative and ruling Peronist coalitions.
Milei, 52, who has gone from outsider to the candidate to beat, won some 30 percent of the total votes cast in the primary contest — a mandatory vote viewed as a dress rehearsal of sorts for the October 22 general election He is also a presidential candidate in the upcoming 2023 Argentine general election, with Victoria Villarruel as his running mate.
Milei’s political rise has been fueled by his charismatic and controversial personality, his frequent appearances on television and social media, and his appeal to young and disillusioned voters who are fed up with the economic crisis and the corruption scandals that have plagued Argentina for decades.
Milei is also known for his outspoken support for Israel and his criticism of Iran, which he accuses of sponsoring terrorism and violating human rights. He has visited Israel several times and has expressed admiration for its achievements in science, technology, and defense. He has also denounced Iran’s involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured hundreds more.
Milei has said that he considers Israel as a “brother country” and that he would move the Argentine embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem if he becomes president. He has also said that he would cut diplomatic ties with Iran and withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal that was signed by former President Barack Obama in 2015.
Pro-Israel and Anti-Palestinian
Milei’s pro-Israel stance has earned him praise from some Jewish groups and Israeli officials, who see him as a potential ally in a region where anti-Israel sentiment is widespread. However, it has also drawn criticism from some Arab and Muslim communities, who accuse him of being biased and ignorant of the Palestinian cause.
Milei’s political positions have also sparked controversy on other issues, such as abortion, which he opposes except when the mother’s life is in danger; sex education, which he rejects as a form of indoctrination; COVID-19 vaccines, which he distrusts as unsafe and ineffective; gun rights, which he supports as a means of self-defense; organ trade, which he favors as a free market solution; cultural Marxism, which he denounces as a conspiracy theory that seeks to destroy Western civilization; and climate change, which he denies as a hoax that serves the interests of global elites.
Due to his radical conservative economic and social policies, Milei has been variously described as far right, ultraconservative, and right-wing libertarian. He identifies as a minarchist or liberal-libertarian, but adheres to the philosophy of anarcho-capitalism. He aligns with the Austrian School of economics, and contends that Argentina is a tax hell that needs a swift reduction in government spending to achieve a balanced budget. He has criticized the administrations of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Mauricio Macri, and Alberto Fernández for their rampant spending and lack of fiscal adjustment.
Milei’s victory in the primaries has been deemed an upset that reflects the anger and frustration of many Argentines with the traditional political parties. His popularity poses a challenge to both the ruling Peronist coalition and the main conservative opposition bloc, who will have to win over more moderate voters in order to compete with him in October. Milei’s success also raises questions about the future direction of Argentina’s politics and its relations with other countries in the region and beyond.