Argentina faces nail-biter election as economy crumbles

Argentines head to the polls Sunday in a down-to-the-wire race between two wildly different presidential candidates, with many frozen by indecision over which choice will rescue them from triple-digit inflation.

One candidate is Economy Minister Sergio Massa, 51, who has overseen annual inflation of 143 percent and record poverty levels.

His rival is a complete outsider, the libertarian and self-described "anarcho-capitalist" Javier Milei, who has vowed to halt Argentina's unbridled spending, ditch the peso for the U.S. dollar, and "dynamite" the central bank.

Polls have the candidates neck-and-neck, with Milei at a very slight advantage.

"It's very, very uncertain. And a lot of voters are going to make their decision literally in the last day, or hours, even at the voting booth," said Nicolas Saldias, a senior analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The stakes are enormous for Latin America's third-biggest economy, which has struggled with decades of fiscal woes.

With over $400 billion in public debt, central bank reserves in the red, and no credit line, the next government "will be digging Argentina out of an unbelievably deep hole with very few resources to do so," said Benjamin Gedan, director of the Argentina Project at the Washington-based Wilson Center.

Despite heavy government subsidies of fuel, transport and electricity, and millions receiving social welfare, poverty levels stand at over 40 percent.

"Argentina has been a macroeconomic and social disaster for 50 years," said analyst Carlos Gervasoni of the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella.

He said the emergence of Milei, a TikTok-savvy outsider who has upended Argentine politics and fired up the youth, was the consequence of decades of...

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