Aug 14, 2023, 10:55am EDT
South America

Who is Javier Milei, the outsider who won Argentina’s presidential primary?

REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

Sign up for Semafor Flagship: The daily global news briefing you can trust. Read it now.

Title icon

The News

Javier Milei, a radical libertarian candidate, won Argentina’s presidential primary, surprising pollsters and plunging October’s election into uncertainty.

Milei — who has vowed to abolish the country’s central bank, thinks climate change is a hoax, and believes the sale of human organs should be legal — leveraged widespread anti-establishment anger over the mismanagement of the economy in his favor, capturing 30% of the vote.

We’ve gathered essential reporting and analysis on what Milei’s primary victory means.

Title icon


  • The popularity of Milei’s proposals — particularly swapping the peso for the dollar as the country’s currency in a bid to rescue the embattled economy — surprised both pollsters, who projected he’d win 20% of the vote, and establishment parties. “Argentina’s society has changed and it’s not the same it was a decade ago,” the head of an Argentinian political consultancy said. “A wave of disillusionment is what’s propelling Milei, and if that wave keeps growing, it might just make him president.” — La Nación
  • Milei’s attacks on the political establishment are resonating “with an electorate frustrated by rampant inflation and a looming recession,” Juan Pablo Spinetto wrote in Bloomberg. The primary results do not necessarily translate to the presidential election in October, but what’s certain is that “Milei has taken politics in Argentina in a novel direction.”
  • Even if Milei were to win October’s election — a big if, considering more than 30% of potential voters abstained during the primary — governing would be difficult. Unlike fellow right-wing populists Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, Milei is much more of a “one-man band,” Brian Winter, Americas Quarterly’s editor-in-chief, wrote. Current projections show that his party would control just 40 of the 257 seats in Congress. “If he wins,” Winter asks, “how would he get anything done?”
  • Besides a deadlock in domestic politics, Milei could find it difficult to implement substantial elements of his foreign policy. Much of Latin America — including neighbors Brazil and Chile, Argentina’s biggest and fifth-largest trading partners respectively — is dominated by left-wing politicians. Milei, who has said the right is “morally superior” to the left, would likely find few friends in the region. — The Economist