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Sergio Massa and Javier Milei define the presidency in a historic runoff

Sergio Massa or Javier Milei. Javier Milei or Sergio Massa. An official and an opponent. A professional politician and a outsider. Argentina elects President today in a historic runoff that, no matter what happens, has already reconfigured the political map of the country.

It is the end of an exhausting electoral race with a society and an economy experiencing the highest inflation in 31 years, 40% poor and a decade of economic stagnation. The migration of the votes of the three ccandidates who remained in the race, attendance and undecided voters may be the variables that explain the winner.

The two candidates – also the ruling party – raise the flag of change. Both promise to organize public accounts, recover salaries, lower inflation and advance against insecurity. To seduce independents, Massa promised a government of national unity and the end of the rift. Milei assures that the necessary adjustment will be made by politics, he insists on his dollarization plan and the closure of the Central Bank.

The candidate of the ruling front Union for the Homeland He was the most voted (36.7%) in the general elections and was almost 7 points ahead of his rival. The La Libertad Avanza candidate surprised the political system by becoming the most voted candidate in the PASO.

Massa managed to add 3.2 million votes (4.5 million individually) between the August primaries and the October general elections, when he won in 13 of the 24 provinces. Milei barely added 753,561 voters to his count on October 22 and fell back in the interior, where in the PASO he had been the candidate with the most votes in 16 jurisdictions.

Mauricio Macri He made explicit and reiterated his support for the libertarian economist, who made his anti-caste message his main campaign banner, although he never blew up bridges with the former president. Macri was accompanied in his bet by the PRO hawks, who collaborated in supervising the elections, and the frustrated JxC candidate Patricia Bullrich, who was with Milei at the closing campaign in Córdoba.

The rest of the opposition coalition that governed between 2015 and 2019 was divided between neutrality, winks against Milei (Gerardo Morales and Martín Lousteau) and in favor (Gustavo Valdes and Alfredo Cornejo) and the call to blank vote (the Civic Coalition).

Milei himself declared that the support of the founder of the PRO was without conditions, although there are already Macrista leaders who work with the economist who jumped into politics in 2021, when he was elected deputy.

The governor of Cordoba Juan Schiaretti -who got 7 percent of the votes in the general elections- did not specify who he would support, but he pointed out again and again against the “the Minister of Economy of the Kirchner government”. Córdoba, the second electoral district, was the key to Macri’s triumph in 2015 and it could be defining again. The electoral weight of Buenos Aires, where 40 percent of the voters live, will also be decisive.

With the chance of a runoff election, which he did not access 8 years ago, Massa seeks to become president in his second attempt and crown three decades of winding political career, from his beginnings in the Ucedé, his stops in the PJ and the construction of the Front Renovator that he created in 2013 when he left the Kirchners.

Minister of Economy since August 2022 and, before, president of the Chamber of Deputies during the administration of the Frente de Todos, the Tigrense was in charge of the Government since he was anointed candidate and with the displacement of Alberto Fernandezlimited to protocol tasks, a novelty in a hyper-presidential country.

The ruling party’s candidate managed to silence all the internal conflicts that marked the experience of the Frente de Todos. He was the exclusive protagonist of a campaign in which Cristina and Máximo Kirchner meekly accepted the very low profile that they recommended.

Looking ahead to the second round, Massa managed add the adhesions of Peronist governors, mayors, heads of State and Government of the region and of Spain, clubs, unions and business associations and political leaders with a common past who did not accompany him in 2019, when he decided to join the Frente de Todos. It remains to be seen whether these institutional supports will be transferred to the polls.

A victory for Massa could crystallize the beginning of a new stage of Peronism without the leadership that Kirchnerism has exercised over the country’s main force for 20 years, when Carlos Menem did not agree to participate in the second round against Néstor Kirchner. That is the bet of many of the allies of the former CFK Chief of Staff. A defeat could add

The electoral participation is as uncertain as the outcome. The assistance of 69% of the register in the primaries It was among the lowest marks since the return of democracy; also 77% of the general. Monday’s holiday – and disenchantment with the electoral offer – could discourage attendance.

The run-up to the elections was at the height of a campaign in which proposals were scarce and the accusations crossed between the candidates multiplied. A complaint was filed from LLA for alleged fraud in the general elections, although its representatives endorsed the final count. The Electoral Chamber warned to the libertarian force for delivering insufficient ballots and the Government announced that it would denounce LLA for accusing the Gendarmerie of participating in alleged fraud. History seems to disprove the fears of libertarians. There have been nine presidential elections since 1983 and only four of them did the ruling parties win.

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