Despite underperforming with respect to pre-election polls, an anti-papal libertarian nevertheless succeeded in forcing a November 19 runoff in the race to become the next president of Pope Francis’ home country of Argentina. Source: Crux.
Some observers believe that self-described “anarcho-capitalist” Javier Milei’s explicit attacks on Pope Francis, including a call from a key ally to suspend relations with the Vatican in protest over the pontiff’s “totalitarian” leanings, may have cut into his support.
Mr Milei had been the surprise winner in Argentina’s presidential primary in August, capturing roughly 30 per cent of the vote in a three-way race, and had been widely expected to come in first in Sunday’s first round of balloting.
Instead, Sergio Massa, the candidate of the country’s ruling centre-left coalition, came in first with 36.33 per cent, according to data released by Argentina’s National Electoral Chamber, despite a deep economic crisis in the country with the inflation rate standing at an estimated 138 per cent.
Mr Milei garnered 30.18 per cent, according to election officials, putting him in second place.
Under Argentine law, a candidate needed to win over 45 per cent of the total vote, or 40 per cent and a 10-point lead, in order to win in the first round. Since no one crossed that threshold, Mr Massa and Mr Milei now will face one another in a runoff.
Mr Milei has shaken the political establishment in Argentina with a radical platform including, among other positions, eliminating Argentina’s public health and education systems, disbanding the central bank, dollarising the economy and allowing people to sell their organs.
Mr Milei has also made his disdain clear for Pope Francis and his social justice agenda, at various points referring to the pontiff as a “communist” and an “imbecile.”
In an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson last month, Mr Milei said the pontiff “has an affinity with murderous communists” and violates the Ten Commandments by defending “social justice.”
In September, so-called “slum priests” in Argentina held a public Mass to defend Pope Francis from the attacks launched by Mr Milei.
“It is shameful for a candidate to say these things,” said Fr José María “Pepe” Di Paola, a well-known advocate for the poor in Argentina.