Argentina’s Traditional Party Crisis: Rise of Javier Milei

In a context of historic economic crisis, the Argentinian primaries which were held this Sunday expressed a deep political polarization on the right and anger against the political class. Far-right candidate Javier Milei came out on top, ahead of outgoing Peronist government candidate Sergio Massa. Faced with the advance of the right and the far right, the far left of the FIT-U becomes the only political coalition to oppose austerity and the IMF in the next elections.

This Sunday in Argentina was marked by the primary, open, simultaneous and compulsory (PASO) elections. These make it possible to choose the candidates who will be able to stand in the elections of next October but also to decide between the candidates for the candidacy within the different political formations. Among the 17 candidates present at the PASO, only 5 political coalitions will be able to stand in the general elections in October.

The results announced on Sunday evening expressed a deep political polarization in the country, with the right and the far right largely in the lead. Results that surprised the majority of journalists and TV commentators last night. The candidate Javier Milei indeed wins the election with nearly 30% of the vote. A huge success for this ultra-liberal far-right economist, claiming to be “libertarian”, who became known on television for his angry temper, his virulent outings against “caste” but also against women’s rights or support for the unemployed. It is closely followed by the right-wing coalition Juntos Por el Cambio (JxP) which obtains 28% and in which the winner is Patricia Bullrich, who will represent the right in the October elections.

For its part, the ruling Peronist party, which presented the Minister of Economy Sergio Massa, supposed to be the favorite in the presidential elections, is facing a deep crisis. If Massa largely won in the internal elections against Juan Grabois, the Union por la Patria (UxP) obtained only 27% of the votes. The far-left Frente de Izquierda y des Trabajadores – Unidad (FIT-U) won 2.7% of the vote nationally, with the list led by Myriam Bregman (PTS) easily winning the internal elections of the FIT-U against that carried by Gabriel Solano (Partido Obrero) becoming the only national political force which will oppose in October the austerity plans supported by all the other candidates.

An election marked by the capitalization by the right of deep social anger
These results, and in particular the 30% of the votes collected by Javier Milei, give an idea of the depth of the economic crisis and its consequences on the political panorama. Behind the reactionary tidal wave, it is the social and political malaise that affects millions of Argentines that was expressed this Sunday, at the same time as the deep crisis of the country’s historic government coalitions. JxC, on the right, and especially UxP, the Peronist coalition in power. The latter are paying the consequences of a social and economic crisis for which they bear full responsibility, and which has resulted in a constant drop in real wages due to galloping inflation and a significant increase in the poverty rate in recent years. years, profoundly degrading the living conditions of the population and workers.

This force, which spoke of a return to “the happy days” with the coming to power of Alberto Fernandez in 2019, carried out a policy characterized by an accumulation of austerity measures and a general drop in wages through the devaluation of the currency, in the framework of total subordination to the IMF, which imposes an ultra-liberal policy on the indebted country. At the same time, Peronism played an important role in containing social anger through its influence on the main trade union organizations, preventing workers and populations from expressing themselves in the streets, in the field of the struggle of the classes.

In this context, the figure of Javier Milei has benefited from the economic and media support received since 2019 from major media groups and economic power, which have actively contributed to building an extremely conservative political climate. In this sense, Milei’s success is part of a broader shift to the right in the political discourse of all the organizations in Argentina, contributing to tilting the political agenda by centering it around the issues of labor flexibilization, the suppression public employment and projects to devalue or even dollarize the economy, all of which would have disastrous consequences for the country and the population.

On this level, if a phenomenon of ideological adhesion is undeniable in a youth sector, there is an obvious gap between the votes for Javier Milei and the real support for his economic and ultra-reactionary program. A discrepancy which can be perceived through the gap between the result of the candidate for the presidential elections (30%) and that of his provincial deputies, testifying to the primacy of degagism and the desire to sanction the political coalitions which have led the country to crisis in this electoral phenomenon. As such, the rise of Milei goes hand in hand with a strengthening of abstention.

As Eduardo Castilla explains for La Izquierda Diario: “In ideological terms, the vote for Milei expresses the growth of an individualistic ideology in sectors of society. This is, to some extent, a logical result. During all these years, trade union and social organizations have not been a driving force in giving an outlet to economic and social demands. On the contrary, they were an obstacle to giving a solution to these demands. On the other hand, it is not a question of an open adhesion to the austerity program carried by the right by all of its voters. »

The far left prepares for October as the only force in opposition to austerity policies, the right and the IMF
After this Sunday’s vote count, the far-left Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores – Unidad (FIT-U) recorded nearly 630,000 votes and a result of 2.7% in the presidential primaries. The internal battle to represent the FIT-U space between the Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS, sister organization of Permanent Revolution in Argentina) and Izquierda Socialista on the one hand, and, on the other, the Partido Obrero and the Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores gives Myriam Bregman (PTS) 70% winner against Gabriel Solano (PO).

Thus, the Myriam Bregman – Nicolas del Caño ticket which will stand for election in October appears to be the only political proposal that opposes the austerity plans of the JxC and UxP governments which have, each in turn, governed for the IMF and for the major economic groups. But it is also the only project to clearly recall that the debate that today crosses the Argentine elites, from Milei to Massa, is above all a debate on the modalities of the attacks to be carried out against the working class and the population in Argentina. Finally, only the FIT-U presents a real emergency plan to get out of the crisis, starting with the exit from the IMF and the rejection of the foreign debt, the defense of a real sharing of working time, the opposition the spoliation of the country’s wealth and natural resources such as Lithium from large foreign groups as well as the defense of women’s rights against the reactionary agenda of the right and the far right.

As Myriam Bregman recalled during the electoral conference organized following the publication of the results last night, “we are the only list which will be presented in October and which will oppose the candidates of the IMF and the austerity and repression. For us, this is a huge challenge. Our challenge will be to defend the women’s agenda, the socio-environmental demands of the native communities and of those who get up every day to work”. Like the fight of the last few months in Jujuy, against the authoritarian constitutional reform of the right-wing governor Gerardo Morales, where his deputies played a role in the front line, the FIT-U intends to defend the need for a workers’ response to to the crisis, by pursuing the construction of a pole of class independence in the face of the austeritarian governments of the right and Peronism.

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