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Homelatin americaArgentina election: Milei underperforms, but still reaches second round runoff against establishment's...

Argentina election: Milei underperforms, but still reaches second round runoff against establishment’s Massa

Argentines went to the polls Sunday night in the first round of the presidential election which saw iconoclastic libertarian frontrunner Javier Milei face off against center-right former Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich, and current left-wing Minister of Economy Sergio Massa.

While most political observers expected Milei and Massa to face off in a second round, surging anti-establishment rage had led some to at least contemplate the possibility of a first-round Milei knock-out blow.

That scenario failed to materialize, as establishment candidate Sergio Massa overperformed: with 89% of the vote in, Massa led with 36.3%, followed by Milei with 30.2%, while Bullrich trailed in third at 23.8%.

Milei was expected to fare better. Massa’s strong showing now sets up a hotly contested second round matchup on November 19, which will largely hinge on the decision made by nearly a quarter of Argentines who backed Bullrich.

According to Argentine electoral law, a candidate needs 45% of the vote to win the first round outright, or 40% of the vote, with a 10 point margin of victory over the second place candidate.

At this point, it appears unlikely that Bullrich would endorse either Milei or Massa, having significant differences with both candidates.

Political analysts will likely be asking the following question: with Argentina’s economy in complete and utter freefall, and inflation pushing 140%, why did the Argentine electorate not evidence a greater turn against the ruling political party?

Argentines now have a clear choice between two radically different alternatives: Massa representing the business-as-usual establishment, and Milei the anti-establishment free-market outsider.

David Unsworth reports on Latin America. You can follow David Unsworth on Twitter @LatinAmerUpdate

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