Political movement was in the Casa Rosada from Carlos Menem to the Kirchners; Javier Milei’s victory marks the worst defeat for Peronism in 40 years
The victory of Javier Mileia self-styled libertarian and anarcho-capitalist, in Argentina’s presidential elections on Sunday (19.Nov.2023) marks a new chapter in the country’s political history since the end of the military junta that ruled from 1976 to 1983.
Milei defeated Argentina’s current Economy Minister, Sergio Massa, a left-wing Peronist from the moderate wing. Thus, the political movement that emerged in the 1940s with then president Juan Domingo Perón (1946-1955 and 1973-1974) will vacate a Casa Rosada commanded by Peronism in 8 of the last 12 terms. The current president, Alberto Fernández, is also a Peronist.
The result represented the most acute defeat for Peronism in 40 years (read more at the end of this report).
Peronist longevity is explained, in part, by its multifaceted and often ambiguous pillars.
In Juan Perón’s first two terms at the head of the Executive, the then Argentine president implemented a regime situated at the confluence of aspects of the fascism (labor legislation, nationalism, Catholicism), socialism (recognition of the working class as a political actor, appreciation of rural workers and underemployed urban workers) and the liberalism (elections, political parties, relative freedom of the press), united by close relations with the Armed Forces and the Catholic Church.
Thus, the political movement attracted sympathies and support from groups across conflicting political spectrums by promoting the inclusion of marginalized classes without harming the interests of traditional ruling elites.
Officially, the Peronist group is the Justicialista Party. After Perón, 6 other representatives of the movement were at the head of the Casa Rosada:
- Isabelita Perón (1974-1976), the first woman to preside over Argentina, was vice-president when she took office on the eve of the death of her husband, Juan Perón. Her mandate was marked by violence against the “Montoneros”, a radical left movement expelled from Peronism. Her government authorized the persecution and murder of guerrillas and figures linked to the left. Her mandate ended in a military coup in 1976;
- Carlos Menem (1989-1999)responsible for applying the neoliberal reforms of the Washington Consensus (1989), his mandate was marked by privatizations, control of hyperinflation, dollarization of the economy and modernization of the public sector, but also by accusations of corruption and by introducing the re-election mechanism;
- Eduardo Duhalde (2002-2003), took over after the succession crisis with the resignation of Fernando de la Rúa (1999-2001). Linked to the workers’ movement, he ended the parity between the Argentine peso and the dollar, but confirmed the moratorium on debt payments and applied the fiscal adjustment demanded by the IMF (International Monetary Fund);
- Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007)defender of the strong role of the State as a driver of development, had a government marked by economic growth based on the rise in prices of commodities and reducing poverty, inflation and public debt. He led the review of amnesty processes given to military personnel and the creation of broad social programs. He died in October 2010, victim of a cardiac arrest;
- Cristina Kirchner (2007-2015), Néstor’s wife, was elected in 2007 and continued the Kirchnerist current of Peronism. She began to be investigated on charges of embezzlement and money laundering. She went sentenced to 6 years in prison and the loss of political rights in December 2022 – but she was not arrested because she had a privileged forum and still had the right to appeal in other instances. She gave up running as head of the ticket in 2019 and was elected as Alberto Fernández’s vice-president;
- Alberto Fernández (since 2019)elected as a critic of Mauricio Macri’s agreements with the IMF, governed the country during the pandemic, but will leave the Casa Rosada with inflation and interest rate in 3 digits, economic contraction and record debt.
Even in the 2001 crisis, the lightning succession of 4 presidents (Ramón Puerta, Adolfo Rodríguez Saá, Eduardo Oscar Camaño and Eduardo Alberto Duhalde) in 10 days was also dominated by Peronist currents.
MILEI WILL BE THE 4TH NON-PERONIST
When he is inaugurated on December 10, Milei will join a select group of presidents who have not been linked to the movement since redemocratization:
- Raúl Alfonsín (1983-1989), the first elected post-dictatorship, led the country in the process of redemocratization and in holding the military accountable for crimes committed against civilians. He paved the way for the cooperation treaties with Brazil that would lead to the creation of Mercosur in 1991. He brought forward the elections after an economic crisis, shortening his mandate;
- Fernando de la Rúa (1999-2001), Eduardo Duhalde, Carlos Menem’s candidate, won, but his presidency was marked by the crisis in “corralito”, when the government limited the amounts of withdrawals in dollars. The move led to a bank run and street protests that left nearly 40 people dead. With this scenario, De la Rúa resigned in December 2001;
- Mauricio Macri (2019-2023), Former mayor of Buenos Aires and former president of Boca Juniors, the billionaire businessman was the first non-Peronist to end his term. The government sought to align itself with international parameters of competitiveness in the economy required by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). However, he left his successor a galloping external debt, with increasing poverty and inflation.
DEFEAT IS THE WORST IN 40 YEARS OF PERONISM
With 99.28% of the ballot boxes counted, the 55.69% of votes in the 2nd round given to Milei mark the worst result for Peronism since the election of Raúl Alfonsín, in 1983. At the time, he won with 51.75% of the votes. votes against Peronist Italo Luder, who received 40.16%.
In 2003, a peculiarity marked the dispute: Carlos Menem, who had been president in the 1990s, withdrew from running in the 2nd round against Néstor Kirchner, who ended up elected despite having fewer votes in the 1st round. Both are also linked to Peronism.
To win in the 1st round, presidential candidates need at least 45% of the valid votes – excluding blanks and null votes – or 40% and a difference of 10 percentage points in relation to 2nd place. If no one reaches this mark, a 2nd round is necessary. In this case, the candidate with the highest number of votes wins.