Javier Milei, Revolt Of The Global Disaffected Is Far From Over
Argentina has elected a "paleolibertarian" outsider with little experience, and by a wide margin. What does this say about the existing structures of power around the democratic world?
PARIS — If it were only a matter of far-right politics, the election of Javier Milei as Argentina's next president would fit into a relatively classic electoral pattern. But this winner, with a very comfortable 56% of votes, is much more than that: this is what makes his case intriguing and raises troubling questions.
He is first and foremost a "radical libertarian," according to the Financial Times, which generally does not engage in hyperbole. Or "paleolibertarian," a doctrine that advocates "anarcho-capitalism," according to the French websiteLe Grand Continent.
Libertarianism is a political philosophy born in the United States that advocates for total individual freedom in the face of state power. Javier Milei, who has a way with words, summarizes it as follows: "Between the mafia and the state, I prefer the mafia. The mafia has codes, it keeps its commitments, it does not lie, it is competitive."
Milei indeed communicates in the demagogic tradition: he is filmed with a chainsaw in hand to demonstrate his determination to reduce state spending by the equivalent of 15% of the GDP. He tears off a classroom whiteboard the names of ministries that he wants to get rid of: the Ministry of Culture, of Environment, of Gender Equality.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro described the event as "sad for Latin America."
His victory is unquestionably a vote of revolt from the inhabitants of a bankrupt country: 40% of Argentines are in a state of poverty, inflation is at 140%, and the country can no longer repay its debt. The Milei vote is "a kind of electoral rebellion, motivated by the economic crisis and a prevailing social discontent," according to Pablo Stefanoni, an Argentine academic and author of an essay titled Has the Rebellion Moved to the Right?
This was clearly a major handicap for Milei's second-round opponent, Economy Minister Sergio Massa, a left-wing Peronist accountable for a long reign that has ended poorly. But voters had rejected the alternative of the mainstream right in favor of an outsider.
The first congratulations to the Argentine winner came from Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro.
Choosing an outsider
Javier Milei broke through with his proposals for radical change. As in other countries, he won because voters preferred an untested political formula rather than ones that had already been proven to not work; it's a high-risk adventure.
The first congratulations to the Argentine winner came from Jair Bolsonaro, the populist who led Brazil until this year, and... you guessed it, from Donald Trump himself. The former — and perhaps future — President of the United States sent a very warm message to Javier Milei: "I am very proud of you," he wrote, with an undertone of vindication.
In Latin America, reactions are more mixed. Lula, Bolsonaro's successor in Brazil, politely congratulated the winner, barely hiding his disappointment, while the left-wing Colombian President Gustavo Petro described the event as "sad for Latin America."
While Javier Milei is undoubtedly an eccentric figure with unconventional ideas, one should not underestimate what he represents: the weariness of disaffected voters who do not hesitate to succumb to the call of a perilous rupture rather than remain stuck in familiar failure. This lesson is universal.
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