Argentina’s centre-right candidate backs radical Javier Milei for president

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Patricia Bullrich, the now-eliminated presidential candidate for Argentina’s mainstream centre-right coalition, has endorsed radical libertarian Javier Milei in a move crucial to making him a viable contender in November’s run-off.

Bullrich, a rightwing former security minister who came third in Sunday’s first-round election with 23.8 per cent of votes, advised her voters to back Milei, who won 30 per cent after pledging to slash government spending by up to 15 per cent of gross domestic product and dollarise the economy.

Bullrich said her supporters should vote for the eccentric economist and television personality rather than Sergio Massa, economy minister in the centre-left Peronist government, who came out ahead in the first round with 36.7 per cent.

“To succeed, Argentina needs a change at the roots that will protect capitalism and end money printing to stop inflation,” Bullrich said at a press conference on Wednesday.

“We cannot be neutral. We are faced with the dilemma of change or the mafia,” she added.

Massa hails from the moderate wing of the populist Peronist movement, which has dominated Argentine politics for four decades. He has promised a unity government to stabilise the economy, despite making unorthodox moves as minister, including printing money to finance spending, helping to drive annual inflation above 138 per cent.

Milei is a first-term congressman who founded his La Libertad Avanza party in 2021. During the first-round campaign he falsely accused Bullrich of “placing bombs in a kindergarten” in the 1970s, when she participated in operations by a leftist guerrilla group in Argentina.

Now he needs to win over most of her voters to have a chance on November 19, said Juan Cruz Díaz, managing director of Cefeidas Group, a political consultancy in Buenos Aires.

“Having Bullrich’s explicit support is very important for him, though it’s not enough: some of her [more moderate] voters will not be comfortable with him.”

Bullrich made her decision after meeting Tuesday night with Milei and Mauricio Macri, the former president and a co-founder of her coalition, Juntos por el Cambio (JxC), who stated his openness to working with Milei earlier this year.

The decision by Bullrich, who is on the right of JxC, is expected to trigger a rupture in the big-tent coalition, analysts said.

Founded to oppose the Peronist movement, it includes her and Macri’s centre-right party PRO, traditional centre-left party Unión Cívica Radical, and the centrist Coalición Cívica.

Some leaders from those parties, which account for many of JxC’s elected governors and lawmakers, have indicated they will remain neutral in the second round.

On Tuesday, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, the moderate PRO mayor of Buenos Aires who had been tipped to be Bullrich’s chief of staff and is also a longtime personal friend of Massa, ruled out supporting Milei because of his radical views.

On Wednesday Elisa Carrió, leader of Coalición Civíca, criticised Macri, saying “he has always been pushing for Milei and the destruction of JxC”.

“JxC is severely compromised,” said Díaz, of Cefeidas Group. “This will change Argentina’s party system as we know it.”


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