Argentine Economy Minister Sergio Massa won the most votes in Sunday’s presidential race, sending the election to a November 19 runoff against a far-right outsider, even as the economy has fallen deeper into recession, inflation has soared and the peso has slumped under his watch this year.
With 91% of the ballots counted as of 10:30 p.m. local time, Massa, of the left-of-center Peronist Party, had 36.3% of the votes, according to the National Electoral Board.
That was more than the 30.2% for Javier Milei, a far-right libertarian who had been the favorite to finish in first place, according to most polls.
The result likely means the election will go to ballotage, given that to win outright in the first round, Massa would need either 45% of the total plus one vote or 40% plus a 10 percentage point lead over Milei.
The big loser in the election was Patricia Bullrich of the right-of-center Juntos por el Cambio coalition that ruled between 2015 and 2019.
Ahead of the election, most polls suggested that Milei, of the La Libertad Avanza party, would come first, repeating his finish in the August 13 all-party primaries. Only one pollster called it for Massa.
The result is unlikely to surprise most political analysts, who said ahead of the election that anything could happen and that it would likely go to a second round. Most had said it would be a fight between Milei and Massa.
Massa, however, did far better than expected, improving on his party’s 29% finish in the primaries. Some analysts said that a part of the electorate was worried about the changes that could come with Milei as president, such as dollarization, a slashing of public spending and a rollback in advances in women’s rights.
The election now shifts to a battle between Massa and Milei, with both expected to modify their strategies to win the 23.8% of the votes that went to Bullrich and the lesser amounts that went to the other two candidates in the election.