Donald J. Trump’s claims of election fraud already helped inspire one South American leader, former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, to raise doubts about the security of his country’s elections, leading to rioting in the Brazilian capital this year. Happened.
Now, 1,500 miles south, a new Latin American politician is warning of voter fraud with little evidence, reducing the confidence of many of his supporters in his country’s elections this Sunday.
Far-right liberal economist and television personality Javier Meili is competing to become Argentina’s next president in a runoff election. During the campaign, he has drawn comparisons to Mr Trump and Mr Bolsonaro, and like them, has repeatedly warned that if he loses, it could be because the election was stolen.
Mr. Miley has claimed, without evidence, that stolen and damaged ballots cost him more than a million votes in the August primary election, or 5 percent of the total.
He said similar fraud may have marred the first round of the general election on October 22, when he came second with 30 percent of the vote. “The irregularities were so large that it puts the results in doubt,” he said in a television interview last week.
On Wednesday, his campaign intensified the allegations. Mr. Miley’s sister, who runs his campaign, filed a complaint with a federal judge claiming “massive fraud” and that in earlier votes, unidentified Argentinian officials switched Mr. Miley’s ballots to those of his opponent. Had given. He said that this information was received from unknown sources.
Mr Miley’s rise from a flamboyant television pundit to a political leader reaching the presidency of Argentina has already shaken up the politics of this country of 46 million. His radical promises to peg Argentina’s currency to the US dollar and close the country’s central bank have left Argentines wondering what could happen if he wins.
But now, along with his pre-emptive claims of fraud, Argentina is also bracing for what could happen if he doesn’t do so.
Polls show there is a tight tug-of-war between Mr Meili and his rival, centre-left Economy Minister Sergio Massa.
Many of Mr Miley’s supporters are already uproar, alleging fraud in his second-place finish last month and taking to the streets at least three times to protest the leftists’ plan to steal votes. On Thursday, his supporters announced plans to protest outside the country’s election authority on election day.
So far, the protests have been relatively small and peaceful, but election observers say Mr. Miley is still in the race.
“I’m not worried that Argentina’s electoral system is in danger,” said Facundo Cruz, an Argentine political scientist who tracks fraud claims. “But I am concerned that some of the practices we have seen in the United States and Brazil could be repeated.”
Argentina’s plight shows that Mr. Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 US election have not only left a lasting mark on American democracy, but are still echoing beyond US borders, where some political leaders are turning to fraud as the new potential excuse for electoral defeat. ,
“In 40 years of democracy, we have never had any serious criticism or any idea of fraud as they are now claiming,” said Beatriz Busanich, head of the Via Libre Foundation, an Argentine non-profit organization that has investigated the country’s voting systems. Have worked to improve. (Argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983.)
“Everyone who believes in the electoral system, democracy and transparency is very concerned,” Ms Busanich said.
Argentine election officials say no evidence of fraud has been found. At the polls on October 22, they received a total of 105 reports of lost or damaged ballots, which is a normal number.
Election officials said they had not received any formal complaints from Mr. Miley’s campaign regarding fraud. Argentina’s electoral authority, in a statement, called his statements “baseless claims of fraud that misinform the public and undermine democracy.”
In Argentina, citizens vote by putting their preferred candidate’s ballot in an envelope and placing the sealed envelope in a box. Campaigns distribute their ballots to polling stations. Mr Miley and his allies claim that people are stealing their ballot papers from polling stations, preventing his supporters from voting for him.
However, when pressed, Mr Miley and his campaign failed to produce more evidence. After Argentina’s electoral prosecutor asked Mr. Miley’s campaign to present evidence, the campaign said it responded with videos and photos from social media.
The campaign’s national legal director, Santiago Viola, the man who coordinated Mr. Miley’s response to election officials, said in an interview that he had had 10 to 15 written complaints from people who said ballots with Mr. Miley’s name on them had been misappropriated. Were missing from polling stations.
Mr. Viola said he believed campaign officials in other parts of the country collected other complaints, but he had not seen them. He could not verify another campaign official’s claim last month that there were 4,500 reports of missing ballots. More than 26 million people voted last month.
“Javier has a better grasp of the numbers than I do,” Mr. Viola said, referring to Mr. Miley.
Mr. Miley says there are “studies” that show he was robbed of 5 percent of the vote in the primary election, but he has not shared it.
Mr Miley has said that one sign of fraud is that in polling, some polling stations reported no votes for him. “It’s statistically impossible,” he said. In reality, last month the three top candidates received zero votes at almost the same number of polling centers – about 100 each – not counting centers where no votes were recorded. There are 104,520 stations.
“I did not come out claiming fraud,” Mr. Massa, Mr. Miley’s rival, said in an interview. “There may be polling stations where no one will vote for you.”
Mr Massa said Mr Miley was following a familiar play. He said, “This is the same methodology as Bolsonaro, the same methodology as Trump.”
Mr Miley has shown a penchant for conspiracy theories. He has called climate change a socialist conspiracy. He has said that he is skeptical of the outcomes of the 2020 and 2022 elections in the United States and Brazil. And he has claimed that the mob attacks on the US and Brazilian Capitol buildings had nothing to do with Mr Trump or Mr Bolsonaro.
“What happened in Brazil was set up by the Brazilian government itself,” he told The Economist in September. Yet there is clear, substantial evidence that Mr Bolsonaro’s supporters raided the Brazilian capital in a bid to overturn Mr Bolsonaro’s election defeat.
As a presidential candidate, Mr Miley has far less power than Mr Trump and Mr Bolsonaro had when they claimed fraud. Yet in both the United States and Brazil, the government institutions they controlled largely resisted claims of fraud.
Instead, it was his supporters – who had heard claims of voter fraud for months – who raided the buildings of power.
After the first round of results came in last month, Julian Ballester, 21, a construction worker, stood outside Mr Miley’s election-night headquarters, convinced the numbers had been rigged. “They threw away many ballot papers,” he said, adding that he had seen the pictures in WhatsApp groups. “The fraud is obvious.”
Tensions have increased in Argentina in the past year as the economy has collapsed. Annual inflation exceeds 140 percent, while poverty and hunger have increased. Mr. Miley has based his campaign partly on the claim that a shady faction of oligarchs led by Mr. Massa is stealing from average Argentines.
Last year, a man fueled by conspiracy theories pulled the trigger of a gun inches away from the face of Argentina’s vice president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a political ally of Mr. Massa.
The gun malfunctioned and did not fire.
Mr. Miley said this week that his campaign planned to combat fraud by equipping his campaign’s 103,000 election monitors with ballots on Sunday so they can replace stocks at polling stations if any are stolen.
Mr Miley said it was sad that the campaign needed to take such steps. “Do you realize what madness we are living in?”