Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Buenos Aires to rally behind Argentina’s far-right populist candidate, Javier Milei. Supporters believe that Milei, an anti-establishment economist, can lead the country out of its economic crisis. However, as the presidential runoff approaches, concerns are rising over Milei’s claims of electoral fraud, which resemble tactics used by Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro.
Milei’s followers have embraced conspiracy theories propagated by his campaign, alleging that the first round of voting was rigged. Relying on fake news circulating on social media, some of Milei’s supporters have even argued that his opponent, Sergio Massa, won every vote in a particular province. The proliferation of these unsubstantiated claims is reminiscent of the false allegations made by Trump and Bolsonaro.
In a strategic move, senior representatives of Milei’s party, Libertad Avanza (Freedom Advances), have petitioned for “legality and transparency” in the election. The petition accuses members of Argentina’s military police of committing massive fraud during the first round. However, no concrete evidence has been provided to support these allegations.
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The security minister of Argentina, Aníbal Fernández, has criticized Milei’s party for making baseless accusations and has announced plans to pursue criminal charges against them. Milei himself has repeatedly cast doubt on the integrity of the voting process, claiming irregularities and stolen ballots. This has led many to fear that Milei may refuse to accept a narrow election defeat, similar to Trump and Bolsonaro.
Experts warn that peddling conspiracy theories about election fraud is an effective way for Milei to mobilize his far-right supporters. His claims align with his portrayal of himself as an outsider fighting against a corrupt political establishment. However, unlike Trump and Bolsonaro, Milei may not have the necessary support or capabilities to forcefully overturn an election result.
While the likelihood of Milei attempting an anti-democratic rupture is questioned, concerns remain about the erosion of democratic norms. Milei and his running mate, Victoria Villarruel, have challenged the consensus surrounding Argentina’s dictatorship, raising doubts about their commitment to human rights. Experts fear that a Milei presidency could lead to attacks on democratic institutions, the demonization of minorities and political opponents, loosening of gun laws, and economic unrest.
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If Milei were to win the election, some experts predict that Argentina’s future could resemble Bolsonaro’s Brazil. The impact of Milei’s political rise has already been significant, emboldening elements of the far right and normalizing hate speech. The consequences for Argentine democracy are seen as a major challenge.
As the country prepares for the presidential runoff, concerns over Milei’s fraud claims grow. While experts believe that his attempts to challenge the election may be limited, the potential consequences for democracy and human rights remain worrying.