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Far-right populist Javier Milei has won Argentina's presidential election following a fiercely polarised campaign where he promised to shake up the country.
He secured 55.7 per cent of the votes, beating centre-left economy minister Sergio Massa who received only 44.3 per cent, Argentina's electoral authority said on Sunday.
The 53-year-old political newcomer had gained a rockstar-like following by raging against what he called the “political caste” on television. Among his controversial policies was a pledge to close down the country’s central bank.
"Argentina's situation is critical," said Mr Milei, a self-described anarcho-capitalist who has often been compared to former US president Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro.
"The changes our country needs are drastic. There is no room for gradualism, no room for lukewarm measures."
The "reconstruction of Argentina begins today," declared the president-elect, who during the campaign vowed to deal with the country's soaring inflation and rising poverty. Inflation has soared above 140 per cent and poverty has worsened during Mr Massa’s time in office.
The president-elect has proposed to slash the size of the government and adopt the dollar as a way to tackle galloping inflation, which he said was a result of successive governments printing money indiscriminately.
He has also proposed banning abortion, easing gun regulations and cutting ties with Argentina’s key trading partners China and Brazil.
Mr Massa, the ruling Peronist party candidate, conceded early on Sunday evening, saying Argentines "chose another path". "Starting tomorrow... guaranteeing the political, social and economic functions is the responsibility of the new president," Mr Massa added.
Donald Trump was among the world leaders to congratulate Mr Milei on securing victory with the widest margin in an election since the country's return to democracy in 1983.
"Congratulations to Javier Milei on a great race for president of Argentina. The whole world was watching," the 45th US president said.
"I am very proud of you. You will turn your country around and truly Make Argentina Great Again!"
Former Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro said “hope will shine again in South America”. “May these good winds reach the United States and Brazil so that honesty, progress and freedom come back to all of us.”
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan congratulated Mr Milei and the people of Argentina for "holding free and fair elections". "We look forward to building on our strong bilateral relationship based on our shared commitment to human rights, democratic values, and transparency," Mr Sullivan said.
“Democracy is the voice of the people, and it must always be respected,” said Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva while congratulating Mr Milei. “I wish the new government good luck and success.”
“There were lot of voters that weren’t convinced to vote Milei, who would vote null or blank. But come the day of the vote, they voted for Milei because they’re all ***ed off,” Andrei Roman, chief executive of Brazil-based pollster Atlas Intel, told the Associated Press.
“Everyone talked about the fear of Milei winning. I think this was a fear of Massa winning and economy continuing the way it is, inflation and all that.”
Mr Milei’s screeds resonated widely with Argentines, particularly a younger generation angered by their struggle to make ends meet. “Incredibly happy, ecstatic, it’s a global historical phenomenon!” Luca Rodriguez, a 20-year-old law student, said outside Mr Milei’s headquarters after spraying a bottle of champagne into the air onto those around him.
“I want to break free from this ridiculous elite that takes away all our rights, all the tax money that pressures us and doesn’t let us live in peace.”