Far-right libertarian economist Javier Milei emerged as the unexpected winner of Sunday’s primary elections in Argentina, taking more than 30% of the vote.
Over 35 million people were eligible to vote in the primary elections in which the candidates for the Oct. 22 general elections were established.
With some 97% of ballots counted, the conservative opposition bloc and the ruling Peronist coalition were behind in second and third place with 28% and 27% of the votes, respectively.
This result has caused enormous surprise in Argentina where the vast majority of pre-election surveys gave the eccentric Milei around 20% of the vote, 10 points behind the other two coalitions that have been governing for the last several years.
Milei remains the favorite candidate for the general elections ahead of the winners of the two main political forces, former President Mauricio Macri’s minister of security, Patricia Bullrich, and of the ruling party, the current minister of economy, Sergio Massa.
Milei, Bullrich and Massa will now compete head-to-head-to-head in the October polls.
“We are the true opposition that really wants change,” Milei said in a fiery speech after the results. “A different Argentina is impossible with the same old things that have always failed.”
MIlei has declared himself an admirer of ex-Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and former US President Donald Trump and has pledged to shutter the central bank and dollarize the economy. He has spoken about enabling citizens to arm themselves and ending free health care.
Although voting in the primaries is mandatory in the South American country and it is not restricted to party members only, turnout on Sunday was around 70%, the lowest for a primary election in 10 years.