The victory of libertarian and outsider Javier Milei in Argentina this past weekend has been met with joyous approval on the right and outright horror on the left. Both expect Milei to immediately begin imposing his radical anti-government polices that will eliminate whole agencies of Argentina’s federal government.
This video by Paul Joseph Watson I think provides an excellent summary of Milei’s agenda. Though Watson sees the agenda from a wholly conservative perspective, he also covers the wide range of Milei’s goals and ideas quite nicely.
After Milei’s election many other news sources did the same, describing his goals in detail. Practically none however took a close look at the reality of Argentina’s new government, and how that reality might impringe on Milei’s plans.
You see, Argentina still has a constitutional government with a federal legislature made up of a Chamber of Deputies (its House of Representatives) and a Senate. Any analysis of Milei’s future plans has got to consider the political make-up of these bodies.
And yet, though I searched hard, I could find almost news reports that discussed that make-up in any way. Politico, NPR, and CNN didn’t mention it all. The only mainstream source I could find that even mentioned the make-up of that legislature was Reuters, but it did so in a short paragraph near the end of its report, with few details.
So, though this is not my area of expertise, I decided to try to find out, both for myself and my readers.
The screen capture to the right comes from Wikipedia’s page about Milei’s victory. It shows the present make-up of Argentina’s legislature.
As you can see immediately, Milei’s party, LLA, does not hold a majority in either house. The biggest party in both is the long-time ruling center-left Peronist party, UP, which is also the party of Sergio Massa, the man Milei defeated for the presidency.
In the Chamber of Deputies power is distributed almost entirely between three parties, UP, LLA, and JxC, which suggests that JxC will become the power-broker, with the other two parties vying for its support. Will it support Milei or oppose him? According to Wikipedia once again, JxC formed in 2015 out of a coalition of parties that opposed the long-time rule of UP. Wikipedia, whose descriptions in these matters must always be treated with skeptism, describes that coalition as “center-right” but “anti-populist” and “liberal”.
Thus, for Milei to get what he wants, he will most likely have to make deals with JxC. Do not expect JxC however to agree to the wholesale elimination of whole government agencies. It will likely resist, because like all government parties those government agencies are the gravy train that these parties rely on. A review of JxC’s actions vs its policies reminds me of the Republican Party in the U.S., willing to say the right things to get elected but then not do them when in power.
In the Senate the situation will be harder for Milei. UP holds a very strong majority, with LLA only half as strong. Even if LLA forms of coalition with the two other parties, JxC and Por Santa Cruz, it will only hold a one vote majority, one that could easily collapse should any senator not go along. Por Santa Cruz, like JxC, is descibed as “center-right” at this website but adds no other details. Further web searches came up empty.
All in all this quick review suggests that Milei and his supporters should tone down their glee at his victory. He might want to eliminate whole bureaucracies and abandon the peso for the U.S. dollar, but to do this he will need the support of this legislature. We can expect without any doubt however that this legislature will not go along peaceably. Instead, we can expect serious opposition, not unlike the opposition of the uni-party in the U.S. to Donald Trump. They have power, Milei is a threat to that power, and they will fight like hell to stop him.
It is possible that under the Argentinian constitution Milei has additional powers within his executive branch that I am unaware of. It could be that he can shut down many agencies without permission from the legislature. I don’t know. I suspect he has some leeway, but its exact range is unclear. At a minimum it is likely he could fire many people immediately. Beyond that however it will take the knowledge of a more educated expert to tell us what to expect.
The bottom line remains the same. The people of Argentina might have voted for a revolution, but that revolution is not likely to happen. It will take patience, determination, and more election victories before a real change in government will occur.
Just like the fight we face now in the U.S.
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