Argentina votes in high-stakes presidential run-off

Originally Published: 19 NOV 23 13:24 ET
Updated: 19 NOV 23 16:32 ET

(CNN) — Polls have closed today in Argentina’s presidential run-off vote, with the National Electoral Chamber reporting that 76% of the electorate had cast their ballot. The contest pits far-right libertarian Javier Milei against left-leaning economy minister Sergio Massa, with radically different proposals to solve the nation’s sky-high inflation.

Electoral authorities say they intend to make an announcement on the results at 9 p.m. local time (7 p.m. ET).

Both candidates were greeted warmly by supporters as they arrived to cast their votes Sunday, video from Reuters showed. Milei, dressed in a leather jacket, walked through a uproarious crowd of cheering spectators in Buenos Aires, clasping hands, waving and signing autographs. He said “now is the time for the people to express themselves” by voting.

Massa appeared slightly more subdued. He was joined by his son and took time to hug and converse with people in the crowd in Tigre, a town on the outskirts of the capital where he previously served as mayor. Massa posed for several photos before entering the polling station and mingling with poll workers and voters. After voting, Massa asked citizens to reflect and “think of the future.”

Argentina’s current president, Alberto Fernández wrote on X, formerly Twitter, described it as an important and happy day. “Argentinians will express ourselves and elect our future,” he said.

More than 86,000 members of the nation’s security forces have been deployed across the nearly 17,000 voting locations nationwide, according to Argentina’s state news agency Télam.

Public opinion polls had shown the candidates neck-and-neck in recent weeks, as Milei and Massa pitched radically different visions for the country, which is grappling with some of the highest levels of inflation in the world.

The surprising ascent of Milei, a self-described “anarcho-capitalist,” came on the back of campaign stunts, including wielding a chainsaw at rallies to symbolize his plans to drastically cut government expenses. His marquee policy proposal is to adopt the US dollar as Argentina’s national currency – a move without precedent for a country of its size.

Massa is a lifelong politician whose candidacy in contrast with Milei’s has come to represent Argentina’s political establishment.

While inflation has reached painful heights –142% year on year – during his tenure, Massa has sought to argue that the government’s current actions are already paying dividends, with inflation for the month of October 35% lower than in September.

He helped pass the country’s law that legalized abortion in 2020 and is a believer in climate change; Milei is anti-abortion and a climate skeptic.

The race is being closely watched as the latest test of far-right populism in the region. Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has endorsed Milei’s candidacy.

Argentina’s next president will take office on December 10 to start a four-year term.

Reporting contributed by CNN’s Stefano Pozzebon in Bogota and Abel Alvarado in Atlanta.

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