The ultra-libertarian candidate for the presidency of Argentina, Javier Milei, continues to stir up claims of electoral fraud. He did so when he won the primaries on August 13, and again after the first round of voting on October 22 when he came in second, almost seven points behind the Peronist candidate Sergio Massa, his rival in Sunday’s runoff. Until now these had been limited to allegations in the media, without any proof on Milei’s part, but enough for his followers to question the reliability of an electoral system that has been flawless for 40 years from the first democratic elections held in the country after the end of the military dictatorship. On Thursday, Milei went a step further, three days before Argentina goes to the polls to elect a new president. Through his sister, Karina Milei, proxy of his party La Libertad Avanza (LLA), Milei claimed in court that during the first round of the presidential election the Argentina National Gendarmerie, the military police force in charge of the custody of ballot boxes and ballots, orchestrated a “colossal fraud” that benefited Peronism. Minister of Security Aníbal Fernández, to whose office the Gendarmerie answers, accused Milei of spreading “a filth” among voters that places democracy at risk.
In Argentina, voting is done through ballot papers printed by the parties themselves. The voter chooses the ballot of his candidate and places it in an envelope, which is sealed and deposited in a cardboard ballot box. At the end of the day, the president of the polling station and election officials count the votes and enter the results in a spreadsheet that is then handed over to the Gendarmerie. It is the gendarmes who guard the documents and ballot boxes before they are sent to the electoral board for the final count. “At that moment, for a time, the necessary time, they changed the content of the ballot boxes and the documentation for others that they modified in favor of the ruling party and Sergio Massa, which considerably altered the electoral result,” reads the document that Karina Milei delivered to a federal judge with electoral jurisdiction, María Servini de Cubría.
As a concrete example, the document claims that “original and authentic” documentation was altered to reflect 40 votes for La Libertad Avanza and 10 votes Unión por la Patria, Massa’s party, as 10 votes for Milei’s grouping and 40 for his opponent. “That is to say, they modified what was duly established in the minutes that up to that moment had not been transmitted, because those specific ballot stations lacked transmission centers.” The operation, the document adds, “would be carried out in exchange for some consideration on the part of the instigators of the crime.”
To counter what Milei considers fraudulent action against him, La Libertad Avanza has requested that its lawyers be authorized to keep custody of the minutes until their final delivery and that the Argentine Air Force and Navy, which it considers “honorable forces,” be added to the electoral security operation. The document lays out a detailed description of the alleged fraud but also acknowledges that the information was gleaned “from denunciations on social networks” and “anonymous” sources. Fernández announced that he will sue Milei and his party. “We have to tell society that suggesting such things occur is a lie. It is crude, it is despicable, like all the things that these people who do not have much political training want to do, and who believe that they can inflict damage just with their tongues,” the minister said.
Milei said after winning the primaries that he had been “robbed” of between four and five points, and that the same thing was carried out by Peronism to leave him in second place in the first round of voting in October. He has never presented any judicial evidence of these claims. Last Tuesday, the Buenos Aires Electoral Board warned that LLA had presented a “substantially smaller” number of ballots than expected and fewer than necessary to guarantee supply at polling stations. The LLA explained it had decided to withhold them and distribute them through their electoral controllers on the day of the vote to prevent them from being stolen or vandalized.
The allegations of fraud filed by Milei augur a tense election night. The polls show a technical tie between the extremist candidate and Economy Minister Massa, with differences in favor of one or the other within the statistical margin of error. If, finally, the result is as close as expected, the Milei will have sown enough to question the results.
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