The advance of the extreme right is beginning to worry Argentina. If something kept this country distant from the global phenomenon of the emergence of alternative rights in the world, it was that the parties still represented the interests of the majorities. And so it remains. But the reliance on traditional politics and the effectiveness of the grand coalitions to function as a containment barrier against the rise of extremists began to show its fissures.
Vox imitators: the Spanish connection in Argentina
The candidate Javier Milei, from Libertad Avanza, who defines himself as “libertarian” and “anarcho-capitalist”, reached in the primary elections last Sunday more than 13% of the votes in the city of Buenos Aires and installed his force as the third Most voted option in the country’s capital. If the result is repeated in November, it would be the first time that a candidate of this new type of extreme right has been represented in Congress.
Who are the candidates
Milei is an economist with two graduate degrees. Most of his professional career has been carried out as an economic advisor in various financial organizations and entities, a job that he combines with his hours as an economics professor at different Argentine universities. La Libertad Avanza is the name of the political seal that he created in the middle of the year to fight in the next legislative elections.
From an ultra-liberal position in the economic and conservative in the political, with an authoritarian and violent tint that distances them from the classical liberals, the Argentine extreme right dreams of replicating Vox and he says that his main objective is to minimize the role of the State in Argentina.
Last month, Javier Ortega Smith, general secretary of Vox, was in Buenos Aires as a guest at a conference organized by the Center for Legal Studies on Terrorism and its Victims, led by Victoria Villaruel, second candidate on Milei’s list. At the meeting, the Spanish leader called for the construction of an alternative to the radical left in Argentina. “I propose to them, as we have proposed to our compatriots in Spain, that they look for an alternative, but not a short-term electoral alternative, but a generational one,” said Ortega Smith.
On the other hand, in the province of Buenos Aires, the district with the highest electoral weight in the country, José Luis Espert embodied the libertarian option with Avanza Libertad obtaining almost 5% of the votes. A lower percentage than Milei’s in the city of Buenos Aires but not negligible for a district with a Peronist tradition.
Its key features
One of the main merits of these candidates is that they have managed to present themselves as the “new” in politics. Which does not mean that there were no far-right forces before them.
“Milei embodies a right-wing liberalism that did not exist in Argentina. In him some things of global alternative rights resonate, that is why his vindication of Trump, his link with Bolsonaro and with Vox. He emerges as a outsider, an eccentric character, aesthetically in the antipodes of the old Argentine liberals. Milei is regarded, until now, with aversion in the traditional liberal foundations “, explains to elDiario.es Pablo Stefanoni, Argentine historian and author of the book” Did the rebellion turn to the right? ”
Second, they are candidates with media coverage. Both Espert and Milei became candidates because they previously had a presence on television channels. Not so much in the political programs, but rather in the evenings that feed on the scandal. In addition, they have made social networks their channel to generate closeness with their followers.
Third, its voters are not segmented by social class, although they are by age.
“In Milei’s campaign events, the bulk of her followers are young voters, between 16 and 35 years old,” explains Facundo Cruz, an Argentine political scientist and researcher on electoral systems. But he not only reaches the upper classes with his free market discourse, but also in the poorest neighborhoods.
The result has been homogeneous throughout the electoral map of the city of Buenos Aires: the party has achieved good results both in the neighborhoods with the highest purchasing power –Recoleta or Palermo– and in the poorest neighborhoods of the city –La Villa 31– and with results above 15 points in the southern part of the city. “This shows that Milei possibly does not represent only the anger of those included in the system but of a part of the excluded who bet on him,” says Cruz.
In addition, they do not represent collective projects but personal ones. “That is his power and his limit,” says Stefanoni. For this reason, they need charisma and a construction of the myth around their person as happened with Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. They have a populist discourse, focused on the differences between those above and below, where the word “caste” is imported from the outside, not so usual in the Argentine political vocabulary.
For the political scientist María Esperanza Casullo, author of the book ‘Why does populism work’, Milei is not yet a candidate that can be defined as “populist” because her role is still limited to a specific audience. “I do not believe that Milei is today a populist candidate because it is not yet a massive phenomenon. It can become one if it develops a speech that can summon more sectors and thus broaden its base of support,” he told elDiario.es.
Why did they advance
The reasons are similar to the landing of far-right parties in other parts of the world. In the first place, they managed to be an attractive proposition in the face of disenchantment. They were voted by those who are angry. That is why the good results of these candidates cannot be understood without the pandemic and without the critical economic situation that Argentina is experiencing. The “libertarians” were born as a reaction to the presence of a State that, during the first months of the pandemic, defined whether it was possible to circulate or not, until what time, for what and when.
For Facundo Cruz, the largest number of Milei’s votes come from Juntos por el Cambio (JxC), the political space of former President Mauricio Macri. “In this last election compared to that of 2019, JxC lost almost 200,000 votes. Javier Milei got 220,000 votes on Sunday. Therefore, one may think that if there had not been a liberal proposal to the right of the old ruling coalition, that vote I could have gone to that political space “, argues the Argentine political scientist.
But also, at a time when few candidates can offer an idea of the future, Milei managed to install the only “truly ideological candidacy that includes a dose of program and utopia,” describes Pablo Stefanoni, who has nicknamed this movement “paleolibertarianism.”
Also, do not forget the connections with other countries. Although Argentina seemed to be oblivious to this global phenomenon, Milei joined the package of ideas of the alternative rights that grew in the heat of the victory of Donald Trump, according to Stefanoni.
He also approached Vox to establish the Madrid Forum, a coordinating body of the extreme right that, according to its organizers, is formed “to face the threat posed by the growth of communism on both sides of the Atlantic protected by the Forum of Sao Paulo and the Puebla Group “.
The future of these political expressions
It is not yet clear what the political future of candidates like these will be in Argentina. A country that has a strong culture and tradition of political participation. There are many questions about what will be their link with traditional politics, if these candidates will join the right-wing coalition of Together for Change, taking as their gateway to their toughest wing of that political space represented by the former Minister of Security by Mauricio Macri, Patricia Bullrich, or if they will remain isolated from the rest of politics.
Nor is it clear if they will seek to expand their territorial scope beyond the city and province of Buenos Aires or if they will be contained within the boundaries of these districts. Nor if they will be able to build, in the coming years, a party structure beyond personalities.
But last Sunday, with the support of more than 13% in the city and 5% in the province of Buenos Aires, they ended up taking a first step, thus removing the label of “marginals” from Argentine politics.