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Argentina elects outsider Javier Milei on platform of radical reform

Milei, a self-described ‘anarcho-capitalist’, has promised to slash public spending by 15 percent and abolishing the central bank.

Argentina has elected libertarian outsider Javier Milei as its next president, taking a chance on the eccentric economist’s programme of radical economic reform after decades of stagnation.

Milei’s win on Sunday heralds a dramatic shake-up of the Latin American country’s economy and institutions amid public anger over high inflation and record poverty rates under the centre-left Peronist coalition.

In the capital Buenos Aires, hundreds of Milei supporters honked horns, set off fireworks, and chanted his popular refrain against the political elite – “out with all of them” – as rock music played.

Economic Minister Sergio Massa conceded defeat as provisional results showed Milei with 56 percent of the vote to his 44 percent, with nearly 90 percent of votes counted.

“Obviously the results are not what we had hoped for, and I have spoken to Javier Milei to congratulate him and wish him well, because he is the president that the majority of Argentines have elected for the next four years,” Massa said.

Milei, a self-described “anarcho-capitalist”, has promised a series of radical reforms, including slashing public spending by 15 percent, abolishing the central bank and switching the Argentinian peso to the US dollar.

The 53-year-old political maverick, whose abrasive style has drawn comparisons with former US president Donald Trump, has also staked out conservative positions on social issues, opposing abortion and sex education, and railing against political correctness.

He has also questioned the death toll under Argentina’s dictatorship, attacked Pope Francis, and denied that humans are responsible for climate change.

Milei’s red-faced rants against the “thieving and corrupt political class” struck a chord with Argentines, particularly young men, amid rising poverty and triple-digit inflation in the Latin American country, which has stumbled from economic crisis to crisis for decades.

“I think what moved me the most was the simple way he explained concepts,” David Urbani, a 20-year-old economics student at the National University of Mar del Plata, told Al Jazeera ahead of the election. “The guy is an academic, not a politician.”

Milei will face a daunting set of challenges when he takes office on December 10, including government coffers that are in the red, a $44 bn debt programme with the International Monetary Fund, and inflation nearing 150 percent.

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