Argentinians to go to polls in presidential run-off vote

Buenos Aires, Nov. 19, (dpa/GNA) – Around 35 million Argentine voters are poised to cast their ballots on Sunday, in the runoff election to choose a new president.
In the midst of a severe economic crisis, the run-off vote pits Economy Minister Sergio Massa from the ruling Peronist party against the libertarian populist Javier Milei. In the latest polls, the two were almost tied.
The self-proclaimed “anarcho-capitalist” Milei promises a radical turnaround. He wants to introduce the US dollar as legal tender, abolish the central bank and many ministries and radically cut social spending.
Voting is compulsory in Argentina.
Polling stations open at 8 am (1100 GMT) and close at 6 pm (2100 GMT).
Initial results are expected in the early hours of Monday.
“No one so extremist on economic issues has been elected president of a South American country,” said economist Mark Weisbrot from the US research institute Centre for Economic and Policy Research.
“His extremist views and values go far beyond macroeconomic policy — he hardly acknowledges any legitimate role for government in some of the most important policies that most people have come to see as necessary for a democratic, humane, and stable society,” Weisbrot said.
The radical programme planned by Milei is particularly popular with young people. Many have only known a life in constant crisis mode, are disappointed with the political establishment and want a fresh start.
Government candidate Massa, on the other hand, is likely to continue the current policy of massive state intervention in the economy and extensive social programmes.
In the lead-up to the election he ordered mass recruitment in the public sector, authorized higher income tax allowances and granted one-off payments to employees and pensioners.
According to media reports, Massa has pumped the equivalent of several billion euros into the economy in recent months, around 1.5% of gross domestic product. The moderate Peronist has recently fuelled fears of social austerity should his rival Milei win the election.
South America’s second-largest economy is in a deep economic crisis. The inflation rate is over 140% and around 40% of people in the once rich country live below the poverty line. Argentina suffers from a bloated state apparatus, low industrial productivity and a large shadow economy that deprives the state of many tax revenues.
The national currency, the peso, continues to lose value against the US dollar and the mountain of debt is constantly growing.