Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas
Elections 2023

Meet the Candidates: Argentina

The field of contenders in October’s presidential election narrowed following the August primaries.
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This page was last updated on September 11

Amid high levels of inflation and political polarization, Argentines voted in presidential primaries on August 13 that determined the candidates in the October election. The abstention rate was 31%, the highest since 2011, when Argentina established the Simultaneous and Mandatory Open Primaries (PASO in Spanish). The candidates with the highest vote share were congressman Javier Milei from La Libertad Avanza, Economy Minister Sergio Massa from the ruling Peronist Unión por la Patria coalition, and former security minister Patricia Bullrich from the opposition center-right Juntos por el Cambio coalition. The first round of the presidential election is on October 22, and if needed, a runoff will be held on November 19.

This survey includes only the three candidates who won their coalition’s primaries and polled highest in the June survey from Zuban Córdoba. They are listed here in alphabetical order by last name. We will occasionally update this page to reflect developments in the campaigns, including other candidates who rise in polls. 

AQ also asked a dozen nonpartisan experts on Argentina to help us identify where each candidate stands on two spectrums: left versus right on economic matters, and a more personalistic leadership style versus an emphasis on institutions. We’ve published the average response, with a caveat: Platforms evolve, and so do candidates.

This piece is part of AQ’s ongoing 2023 presidential election coverage.

Patricia Bullrich | Sergio Massa | Javier Milei


67, former security minister

Propuesta Republicana (PRO)

“I’m going to make profound changes in the country.”


Bullrich is known as one of the more conservative figures within the center-right/right PRO party, which she led from 2020 until April 2023. She served for several years in the lower house of Congress and one year as minister of labor under Fernando de la Rúa in the early 2000s. She garnered a tough-on-crime reputation as minister of security in Mauricio Macri’s administration (2015-19).


In what is shaping up as an anti-status quo election, Bullrich is seen by many voters as sufficiently different, without being too radical. Her mano dura security policies have increased her popularity within the opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition. Bullrich won her coalition’s primary over a more moderate competitor, Buenos Aires mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.


Her specific security policies, such as easing restrictions on the police’s use of force, may prove too hard-line for some voters in a country with deeply negative memories of military rule. With Milei to her right and Massa to her left, Bullrich has a difficult balancing act to perform, as she tries to remain centrist enough to draw in votes from supporters of Rodríguez Larreta, yet right-wing enough so as not to bleed support to Peronism.


Bullrich’s voters tend to be higher-income and older, and many hail from central Argentina. Some observers note that the emergence of Javier Milei has pushed Bullrich further to the right, which could increase her support among social conservatives. Bullrich has chosen Luis Petria former federal congressman from the Unión Cívica Radical party, as her running mate.


Bullrich has said she would involve the armed forces to fight drug trafficking and organized crime. She has proposed the simultaneous use of the peso and the U.S. dollar, and said she would reduce taxes. Bullrich has stated that under a new deal with the IMF, she would scrap currency controls as soon as possible, and said she would reverse the government’s recent decision to formally join BRICS in January 2024.


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51, economy minister

Frente Renovador

“Energy, proteins, minerals and especially human capital are key for Argentine development and are the pillars of our place in the world.”


Massa, a former lawyer, served as the mayor of the city of Tigre and as then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Cabinet chief. Still, like President Alberto Fernández, he is seen as an independent voice within Peronism, and sometimes critical of kirchnerismo. He ran for president in 2015, against a Kirchner-sponsored candidate, finishing in third place. In July 2022, President Fernández named him economy minister in the hope that he would have the credibility to heal the economy.


As economy minister, Massa has so far held full economic breakdown at bay. In a runoff against Patricia Bullrich or Javier Milei, he could gain support by portraying himself as the moderate candidate. Support from a united Peronist bloc is crucial for his campaign, and Massa won his coalition’s primary by a wide margin.


Massa has has failed to tame Argentina’s runaway inflation and the country’s foreign currency reserves have dwindled during his tenure as economy minister. He faces a continued challenge in keeping Peronism’s powerful factions together and is a prominent face in a government facing record low approval numbers. While those abroad, particularly in the U.S., have praised his management, he is less popular at home.


Massa has support from moderates within and outside of Peronism who favor more liberal economic policies. His voters are concentrated in urban areas and favor his brand of pragmatic, technocratic leadership. Massa’s running mate is Agustín Rossi, the current chief of Cabinet to President Alberto Fernández and a former defense minister.


As a more economically orthodox Peronist, Massa would maintain the program Argentina signed with the IMF in March 2022 as well as the good relationships he has established with some in the private sector. He may continue some of the limited austerity measures and selective price controls he has implemented as minister. Massa signaled plans to deepen regional economic integration by announcing that Argentina and Brazil would study the creation of a common currency, and in June, he sought to alleviate Argentina’s foreign debt with the renewal of an $18.4 billion currency swap line with China.


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52, congressman

La Libertad Avanza

“(I’m called) politically incorrect because I’m against the thugs in the political caste, because I’m against their privileges.”


Not a career politician, Milei played in a Rolling Stones cover band before studying economics, specializing in the Austrian school, and working in finance. He led his libertarian group, La Libertad Avanza, to a surprisingly strong showing in Buenos Aires in 2021, when he was elected a federal congressman.


The inability of both Mauricio Macri’s center-right government and the current left-leaning Peronist government to solve Argentina’s chronic economic problems has left many people disillusioned with both sides. That provides opportunity for an outsider who seems to have simple and forceful answers and is skilled at conveying his message via social media. Milei had a stronger than expected showing in the August primary, taking the largest share of the vote (just over 30%).


With his opposition to abortion and focus on culture war issues like criticizing feminism, Milei may be too radical for most Argentine voters. The libertarian movement is itself divided and lacks a unified party structure. In July, a federal prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation into allegations that Milei’s party sold candidacies on its lists—Milei has denied the accusations.


Milei’s base of support is concentrated among young people, especially men, but it runs across social classes and includes lower-income sectors that might traditionally be expected to support Peronism. He has also attracted support from voters who are fed up with the political system. Milei has stated he will give his running mate, congresswoman Victoria Villarruel, control of the security and defense ministries. In September, Villaruel held an event “honoring victims of left-wing terrorism” that drew complaints from human rights groups, who perceived this as an attempt to justify the military dictatorship of 1976-83.


Milei’s platform calls for shuttering the central bank, loosening restrictions on buying firearms, dollarizing the economy, introducing a school voucher system, privatizing state companies, charging for public hospital services, as well as pension cuts. Dogged opposition from the Peronist left and from social movements would likely raise obstacles to such an agenda.


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Tags: Argentina, Elections 2023
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