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With the upcoming second round of the presidential elections on Sunday, the potential of Milei’s presidency raises serious concerns, posing a significant threat to Argentina’s democratic institutions, as explained by Dr Matías Bianchi.
ADVERTISEMENTAs Argentina commemorates 40 years of uninterrupted democracy, the longest period in its history, there is a disturbing cloud hanging over its political landscape. The emergence of Javier Milei, a libertarian economist-turned-presidential candidate with a rhetoric laced with authoritarian undertones, presents a stark challenge to the nation’s democratic framework.Milei’s uncertainty about democratic norms is evident. During a television interview, he questioned the effectiveness of democracy, citing Arrow’s theorem to argue against democratic decision-making. What is more troubling are his suggestions that directly oppose Argentina’s Constitution, such as the proposal to ban public demonstrations, which clearly infringes on civil liberties. “We are approaching the end of the caste system, based on the appalling notion that where there is a need, a [human] right is born, but they forget that someone has to foot the bill for it all. [And the] ultimate abomination [of this notion] is social justice,” a statement that openly references and then contradicts Article 14bis of the Constitution and its social protections. Similarly, he and others like him propose the promotion of an unconstitutional law that would “prohibit public demonstrations.”Argentina has long been wrestling with economic mismanagement, rising poverty, and a growing disillusionment with its political elite. In a climate of dissatisfaction, Milei’s message, which ostensibly challenges the status quo, has struck a chord. However, the change he advocates could potentially undo the democratic progress painstakingly achieved over four decades.Milei’s authoritarian inclinations, a worrying prospectAs the second round of the presidential elections approaches on Sunday, the possibility of Milei’s presidency raises every single red flag, posing a serious threat to Argentina’s democratic institutions. Even if he is not elected, his authoritarian ideas and manner, such as rallying while wielding a chainsaw, may linger in the country’s political discourse, challenging democratic forces to forge a renewed social contract that fosters and expands democracy.Our think tank, Asuntos del Sur Global, recently carried out a study assessing the authoritarian threats to Argentina’s democracy by organizing public declarations of presidential candidates. The study drew from the influential work of Harvard scholars Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s book, “How Democracies Die”. The findings are concerning: Milei’s discourse and proposals display clear signs of authoritarianism, a worrying outlook for Argentina’s democratic future.One of the threats identified by the study is the denial of legitimacy to political opponents as a warning sign of authoritarian behavior. Milei’s derogatory references to opponents, from labeling them as “political diarrhoea” to outright verbal attacks such as “collectivist sons of bitches” or “I could crush you from a wheelchair,” fittingly fit this pattern disturbingly well. Such rhetoric not only polarizes the political discourse but also undermines the very principles of democratic debate and dissent.Another indicator of authoritarian tendencies is the tolerance or approval of violence. Milei’s reaction to the attempted assassination of former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, treating it as just a criminal act rather than a symptom of a deeper societal malaise, along with his praise for repressive acts during Argentina’s dark dictatorship era, signals a dangerous inclination.Perhaps most alarming is Milei’s readiness to restrict the freedoms of opponents and the press. Threats of legal action against journalists and political adversaries reveal a disposition toward stifling dissent and criticism, a hallmark of authoritarian regimes.Erosion of Argentina’s democracy is not just a local issueThe stakes are high. Argentina stands at a critical moment, facing a choice between preserving its democratic legacy or heading down a path that could erode its hard-won democratic foundations.ADVERTISEMENTAs Argentina navigates this pivotal juncture in its political history, the responsibility to safeguard its democracy does not solely rest on the shoulders of its citizens; it is a call to action that should resonate globally.For the Argentine people, the call to action is clear: participation and vigilance. Participation, not only in terms of casting votes, but also in actively engaging in democratic discourse, is crucial. Civil society, media, and educational institutions must collaborate to nurture a culture of democratic values and critical thinking. This entails challenging authoritarian narratives, promoting transparent and fact-based political dialogue, and cultivating the next generation’s dedication to democratic principles.Furthermore, Argentinians must hold their leaders accountable, ensuring that any attempts to undermine democratic norms are met with strong, unified resistance.ADVERTISEMENTInternationally, there is a need for a collective response. Democratic nations, international organizations, and human rights groups should closely monitor the situation in Argentina, prepared to counteract any undemocratic shifts. Economic and diplomatic pressure can be used to support democratic institutions and civil liberties. Moreover, international media must shine a spotlight on Argentina’s democratic challenges, raising global awareness and fostering solidarity. This international attention can serve as a deterrent against authoritarian tendencies and provide moral support to those fighting for democracy within Argentina.One nation’s fate impacts the entire global communityLastly, it is essential to acknowledge that the struggle for democracy in Argentina is indicative of a broader global trend where democratic values are being tested. ADVERTISEMENTAs such, supporting Argentina’s democracy transcends national borders; it is part of a broader imperative to defend democratic ideals worldwide. In this interconnected world, the fate of democracy in one nation impacts the stability and values of the global community. Hence, the defense of Argentine democracy is not only Argentina’s concern, it is a regional and global responsibility, demanding a unified and resolute response.Dr Matías Bianchi serves as Director of Asuntos del Sur Global, a think tank dedicated to democratic innovation in the Global South. He earned his PhD in political science at Sciences Po.At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at email@example.com to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.