Argentina is headed for a run-off vote between Economy Minister Sergio Massa and the far-right libertarian Javier Milei after a better-than-expected performance by the ruling Peronist coalition’s candidate in the country’s presidential election.
Massa led Milei by 36.6 percent to 30 percent with 98 percent of the votes counted on Sunday night.
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Argentinians will choose between the two candidates in a run-off election next month, with the winner to take office on December 10.
The outcome is a surprise amid widespread voter anger over the government’s track record on the economy, which includes inflation of 140 percent and a 40 percent poverty rate.
Milei, an eccentric economist and self-described “anarcho-capitalist”, had led Massa in the polls, buoyed by public discontent over decades of economic decline and runaway prices.
The 53-year-old leader of the Liberty Advances party has promised to slash public spending by 15 percent and undertake radical economic reforms, including abolishing the central bank and switching the Argentinian peso to the US dollar.
He has also staked out conservative positions on social issues, opposing abortion and sex education, railing against political correctness and disputing humans’ role in climate change.
“He is the only one who understands the situation in the country and understands how to save it,” Buenos Aires student Nicolas Mercado, 22, was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.
Massa, who argued that Milei’s proposed spending cuts would hit people’s pockets, announced income tax cuts for much of the population ahead of the vote.
“Peronism is the only space that offers the possibility that the poorest of us can have basic things at our fingertips,” bricklayer Carlos Gutierrez, 61, was quoted as saying by Reuters as he went to vote on Sunday.
To win outright in Sunday’s vote, a candidate would have needed more than 45 percent of the vote, or 40 percent and a 10-point lead.
Election authorities said the turnout was about 74 percent, up from the August primaries, but lower than the 81 percent participation at the last general election.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies