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Argentina’s third-place presidential candidate Bullrich endorses right-wing populist Milei in runoff

Some of the other elements in her coalition, mainly members of the more left-leaning Radical Civic Union, made clear they would not support Milei

Patricia Bulrich
Former Argentina presidential candidate, Patricia Bullrich, in Buenos Aires (Argentina), October, 25,2023.Enrique García Medina (EFE)

Former Argentine presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich, who placed third in Sunday’s election, endorsed right-wing populist Javier Milei on Wednesday for next month’s runoff. Bullrich, a former security minister, received 24% of the vote, compared to 37% for Economy Minister Sergio Massa and 30% for Milei.

“In the case of Javier Milei, we have differences, and that’s why we competed. We don’t overlook them. However, we are faced with the dilemma of change or the continuation of a mafia-style governance for Argentina and putting an end to the shame of the present. We have the obligation not to remain neutral,” Bullrich told a news conference.

“The country needs a fundamental change,” Bullrich added, warning against a “continuation of the worst government in history.” Bullrich emphasized that she was speaking on behalf of her presidential team, including running mate Luis Petri, rather than their coalition, making clear that neither the center-right PRO party she leads, nor the broader United for Change coalition, officially backed the decision.

Since Sunday’s vote there have been tensions within the center-right United for Change, the country’s main opposition coalition, about who its members would support ahead of the Nov. 19 runoff that will decide who will lead South America’s second-largest economy that suffers from an annual inflation rate of almost 140% and rising poverty.

Former President Mauricio Macri, who founded the PRO party, has spoken positively of Milei in the past, characterizing the support he received as a demonstration of how Argentines want change.

Some of the other elements in the coalition, mainly members of the more left-leaning Radical Civic Union, made clear in recent days they would not support Milei, a chainsaw-wielding candidate who has vowed to slash state spending and implement a plan to get rid of the local currency and dollarize the economy to deal with inflation.

Former Sen. Ernesto Sanz, a member of the Radical Civic Union and one of the founding members of the coalition, raised the possibility that the coalition would disband if leaders of the party publicly expressed their support for Milei. “Coalitions, like political parties, are not designed to live forever. They exist as long as their members want them to,” Sanz said in a radio interview Wednesday. It was not immediately clear whether Bullrich’s announcement would mean a rupture in the coalition as the endorsement did not come from the party itself.

Milei, a self-described anarcho-capitalist, competed with Bullrich for right-leaning votes in Sunday’s election. Ahead of the vote, Milei harshly criticized Bullrich but has recently moderated his speech and even raised the possibility that she could join his cabinet if he wins the presidency.

The libertarian economist, who parlayed a successful television career into a seat in the lower house of Congress in 2021, managed to insert his Liberty Advances party into a political system that had been dominated by one center-left and one center-right coalition trading power for around two decades.

Liberty Advances will have 37 seats in the lower house of Congress, known as the Chamber of Deputies, and eight senators, according to preliminary calculations. That compares to 105 lawmakers and 32 senators for the ruling Union for the Homeland and 94 lawmakers and 24 senators for United for Change.

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