Establishment insider or political provocateur? Argentina faces stark presidential choice

© Luis Robayo, AFP

Amid skyrocketing poverty and inflation, Argentinians face a stark choice on Sunday between two wildly different presidential candidates. Libertarian Javier Milei has led a disruptive campaign that has galvanised voters and won support from a faction of the traditional far-right. But a shock first-round victory for current Economy Minister Sergio Massa has set the scene for a down-to-the wire race in the final round of voting on Sunday.

As the results for the first round of voting were announced on October 22, cheers and hugs broke out in the campaign headquarters for government minister Massa.

Two months earlier Massa – who has overseen triple-digit inflation in Argentina – had achieved a mediocre result in the open primaries, which determined the first-round candidates. The economy minister brought in 27.3 percent of the vote, placing him third behind the leader of the far-right coalition Patricia Bullrich (28 percent) and first-round victor, political outsider and self-proclaimed "anarcho-capitalist" Milei (30 percent).

But, weeks later, the tables had turned dramatically. Massa, representing Union for the Homeland (UP), defied the polls and stormed to a spectacular first-round victory with 36 percent of the vote, pushing Milei into second place with 29.9 percent, and third-place Bullrich out of the race.

The return of Peronism

With an unexpected leap from 27.3 percent of the vote to 36 percent in just two months, Massa seems to have succeeded in convincing Argentinians worn out with incessant inflation that a Milei victory would mean a dangerous leap into the unknown both economically and democratically.

Read more on FRANCE 24 English

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