On October 22, Argentina is poised to hold the first round of the 2023 Presidential Elections, determining the successor to the Peronist Alberto Fernandez. 

Following the primary elections back in August, several candidates emerged as contenders for the country’s presidency. These candidates are Javier Milei (Libertarian Party), Sergio Massa (Renewal Front), Patricia Bullrich (Republican Proposal), Juan Schiaretti (Justicialist Party), and Myriam Bregman (Socialist Workers Party). 

Following the primaries, Javier Milei emerged as the frontrunner, garnering over 30 percent of the votes. Yet, the Buenos Aires native is an extremely controversial character, whether for his eccentricity or his political views that stand firmly in defiance of the status quo.

Milei, a former goalkeeper and rock singer, entered the political spotlight just two years ago when he was elected to the Argentinian Parliament. Beforehand, he spent most of his life dedicated to economics, working as an economic advisor, think tank director, author, TV commentator, and economics professor. 

A staunch admirer of the Austrian School of Economics, Milei describes himself as an anarcho-capitalist, a perspective uncommon in most countries’ political scenes. Advocating for a free-market economy, Milei views the state as the primary cause of the world’s problems. 

Moreover, he holds strong pro-liberty positions on various contentious issues, such as gun possession, drug legalization, homosexuality, and gender identity. However, deeming it a violation of the non-aggression principle, Milei opposes abortion.

It is undeniable that if Milei wins the upcoming elections, significant changes will occur, not only in Argentina but across South America and possibly further afield. Argentina has been in a precarious economic situation, experiencing its highest inflation rates in the last 30 years, with values nearing a staggering 200 percent. 

This level of inflation has led to widespread poverty and protests demanding a swift resolution. In this context, Milei’s potential leadership could be valuable, as inflation is one of the primary issues the Libertarian Party candidate is committed to addressing. He attributes the current situation to the poor governance of previous Argentinian leaders, largely due to the misallocation of financial resources. 

However, it remains uncertain whether the consequences of Milei’s measures will be free of collateral effects affecting Argentinian society as a whole. On the social front, minority and LGBTQ+ rights appear secure should Milei emerge victorious, although the status of Argentina’s abortion laws would seem less certain. 

Since 2020, abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy has been legal in Argentina. If Milei sought to reverse this policy, it could lead to severe consequences, including women resorting to clandestine abortion methods, resulting in danger to their lives.

Regarding international relations, a Milei presidency would shake up MERCOSUR, a regional trade bloc that plays a pivotal role in South American politics and trade. At present, MERCOSUR is under the leadership of Brazil’s left-wing president, Lula da Silva. 

However, if Milei assumes the presidency in Argentina, the balance within the organization could experience a significant transformation, particularly given that the remaining three member states, Paraguay and Uruguay also have right-leaning leaders. This could potentially create a balance between left-wing and right-wing policies or, conversely, promote more free-market-oriented policies.

Javier Milei has expressed antipathy towards foreign leaders such as Lula da Silva, Joe Biden, Gabriel Boric, and even Pope Francis. Thus, a Milei-led Argentina may have more strained relations with countries like Brazil, the United States, Chile, or the Vatican City. 

However, countries like Venezuela or Peru may benefit from his leadership in Argentina. Indeed, Argentina holds significant influence over regional relations and policy dynamics, and a victory for Milei could result in more pressure on the Maduro regime in Venezuela or Dina Boluarte’s controversial left-wing presidency in Peru.

Ultimately, Javier Milei needs to secure 45 percent of the vote (or 40 percent if he manages to maintain a 10 percent lead over the second candidate) in order for him to win the upcoming election. If no candidate reaches the threshold, a second round will be held in November.

As voters head to the polls on October 22, they hold the power to shape the trajectory of Argentina’s economy, social policies, and international relations. The decisions made in this election will resonate not only within Argentina but also throughout South America.

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