Far-right populist Javier Millay has won Argentina's presidential election after a fiercely polarized campaign in which he promised to shake up the country.
He secured 55.7 percent of the vote, beating center-left Economy Minister Sergio Massa, who received only 44.3 percent, Argentina's electoral authority said Sunday.
The 53-year-old political newcomer had won a rock-star-like following by railing against what he called the “political caste” on television. Among his controversial policies was a pledge to close the country's central bank.
“Argentina's situation is critical,” said Millay, a self-styled 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 a gradual pace, no room for lukewarm measures.”
“The reconstruction of Argentina begins today,” said the president-elect, who during the election campaign pledged to tackle the country's rising inflation and growing poverty. Inflation has soared to more than 140 percent and poverty has worsened during Mr Massa's tenure.
The president-elect proposed shrinking the size of government and adopting the dollar as a way to deal with runaway inflation, which he said was the result of successive governments printing money indiscriminately.
He has also proposed banning abortion, loosening gun regulations and cutting ties with Argentina's main trading partners, China and Brazil.
Mr. Massa, the candidate of the ruling Peronist Party, conceded early Sunday afternoon, saying Argentines had “chosen another path.” “From tomorrow… the guarantee of political, social and economic functions is the responsibility of the new president,” Mr Massa added.
Donald Trump was among the world leaders who congratulated Miley on securing the largest margin of victory in an election since the country's return to democracy in 1983.
“Congratulations to Javier Millay on a great race for the presidency of Argentina. The whole world was watching,” said the 45th US president.
“I am very proud of you. You will turn your country around and really make Argentina great again!”
Former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro said “hope will shine again in South America.” “May these fair winds reach the United States and Brazil, so that honesty, progress and freedom may return to us all.”
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 must always be respected,” Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said in congratulating Mr Millay. “I wish the new government good luck and success.”
“There were many voters who were not convinced to vote for Milei, who would vote invalid or blank. But come voting day, they voted for Milei because they're all disappointed,” Andrei Roman, chief executive of Brazil-based polling firm Atlas Intel, told The Associated Press.
“Everyone was talking about the fear of Miley's victory. I think that was the fear of Massa winning and the economy continuing as it is, inflation and all that.”
Mr. Milei's words resonated with Argentines, particularly a younger generation angered by their struggle to get by. “Incredibly happy, ecstatic, he is a world-historical phenomenon!” Luca Rodriguez, a 20-year-old law student, said outside Mr. Milei's headquarters after spraying a bottle of champagne in the air at those around him.
“I want to be freed from this ridiculous elite that takes away all our rights, all the tax money that squeezes us and doesn't let us live in peace.”