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A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Buenos Aires on November 19, 2023.
Polls are open in Argentina for a high-stakes presidential run-off vote pitting far-right libertarian Javier Milei against the country’s left-leaning economy minister Sergio Massa.
Both candidates were greeted warmly by supporters as they arrived to cast their votes Sunday, video from Reuters showed. Milei, dressed in a leather jacket, walked through a uproarious crowd of cheering spectators in Buenos Aires, clasping hands, waving and signing autographs.
Massa appeared slightly more subdued. He was joined by his son and took time to hug and converse with people in the crowd, posing for several photos before entering the polling station in the city of Tigre, on the outskirts of the capital, and mingling with poll workers and voters.
Public opinion polls had shown the candidates neck-and-neck in recent weeks, as Milei and Massa pitched radically different visions for the country, which is grappling with some of the highest levels of inflation in the world.
The surprising ascent of Milei, a self-described “anarcho-capitalist,” came on the back of campaign stunts, including wielding a chainsaw at rallies to symbolize his plans to drastically cut government expenses. His marquee policy proposal is to adopt the US dollar as Argentina’s national currency – a move without precedent for a country of its size.
Milei, of the Liberty Advances coalition, arrives to vote in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023.
Massa is a lifelong politician whose candidacy in contrast with Milei’s has come to represent Argentina’s political establishment.
While inflation has reached painful heights –142% year on year – during his tenure, Massa has sought to argue that the government’s current actions are already paying dividends, with inflation for the month of October 35% lower than in September.
He helped pass the country’s law that legalized abortion in 2020 and is a believer in climate change; Milei is anti-abortion and a climate skeptic.
Massa gestures as he speaks on the day of Argentina’s runoff presidential election, in Tigre, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, on November 19.
The race is being closely watched as the latest test of far-right populism in the region. Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has endorsed Milei’s candidacy.
Polls close at 6 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET) with a quick vote count expected.
Reporting contributed by CNN’s Stefano Pozzebon in Bogota.