IT speaks volumes that among the first international political leaders to congratulate Javier Milei on his presidential election victory in Argentina was none other than Donald Trump.  

To say that both men have a lot in common would be an understatement. For that reason also it would be all too easy to dismiss Milei in much the same way so many of us did when Trump first made his presence felt on the US presidential scene. 

Though to some degree the two are indeed cut from the same “comic” cloth, this belies the serious implications of what they bring to politics in their respective countries and to the world at large. 

Not least among the similarities between Milei, Trump and his Latin American populist counterpart, Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil (below), is that the bombast of all three makes many in their respective countries fear a turn toward authoritarianism. 

The National: Jair Bolsonaro

But there are big differences between them too, for the Argentine leader is neither nationalist nor protectionist and as a self-styled “anarcho-capitalist”, what Milei represents is something of a desperate attempt by the Argentine electorate to escape the nation’s worst crisis in more than two decades.  

Scarred by triple-digit inflation, despairing of stagnant living standards, endemic poverty, along with rising crime and the failure of successive incumbent politicians – which Milei has dubbed a “caste” – his predecessors have a disastrous economic record.  

Many among Argentina’s 46 million people appear to have read it that way too, opting for a high-risk strategy by putting their faith in the showboating radical libertarian, though politically untested, Milei. In the end, the election result was a convincing win for Milei, taking 56% of the vote against his nearest rival at 44%. 

His opponent and political polar opposite, the Peronist left-wing economy minister, Sergio Massa, might have obtained the most votes in the first round, but the country’s catastrophic economic situation was always going to come back to haunt his election campaign and a runoff where the majority of voters wanted change. 

READ MORE: Javier Milei promises ‘reconstruction of Argentina’ after election victory

For many years in Argentina, as elsewhere in Latin America, the region has been the most unequal in the world. Even after substantial reductions in inequality over the past decade, eight out of the 20 most economically unequal countries on the planet are located in the region. 

This poses obvious challenges for Milei who while a political movement unto himself, will still have to form a coalition with conservative and centrist politicians in the Argentine Congress. 

This will not come easy to a president-elect known for his often caustic and insulting rhetoric. And all the time Milei knows too that should he fail in his reform efforts through incompetence or vanity, he could discredit market policies in Argentina, which could put the Peronists back in power. 

The inescapable fact for Milei is that effectively implementing radical economic change in a highly polarised nation suffering a deep crisis is monumentally difficult, even for an experienced leader commanding a congressional majority.

By comparison, Milei is a political novice with a small legislative base and an unpredictable character and what happens next could well prove the truth of the notion that it is easier to criticise than to do. Make no mistake about it, bravado and bluster will not be enough to see a man like Milei (below) succeed with his policies in Argentina.  

The National: Presidential candidate of the Liberty Advances coalition Javier Milei could take power in South America’s second biggest economy (AP)

In taking his chainsaw that he adopted as his icon during the election campaign, symbolising his intention to demolish the state and slash public spending, Milei will have to carve into the most sensitive parts of Argentina’s economy which will undoubtedly hurt the poor in the short term. 

Meanwhile, his half-baked idea to dollarise the economy could also lead to higher inflation or perhaps even hyperinflation as people dump their pesos in droves. Given that Argentina has insufficient dollars to pay for all the pesos in circulation and held in banks or the fact that neither international creditors nor the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will lend Argentina dollars to implement such a risky plan also bodes ill. 

And speaking of the rest of the world, some of Milei’s foreign policy judgements are worrying to say the least. His willingness to accept the deposed Bolsonaro’s overtures in a Brazil now run by President Lula da Silva but still Argentina’s biggest trading partner, could seriously jeopardise its relationship with its giant Latin American neighbour.

In fact, foreign policy is the one area where Milei could rapidly find himself out of his depth.  

It would be a mistake to think this insignificant, given that Argentina is not only a member of the G20 but the third largest economy in Latin America.

READ MORE: Argentina's President Milei wants to claim Falklands back

Milei’s admiration too for Trump will not exactly endear him to the Biden administration. Nor will his description of the communist government in Beijing as an “assassin” do much for Argentina’s dependence on agricultural imports to China.  

But then again I suppose it might not be the first time that the realities of governing might just temper some of Milei’s most radical ideas. There was perhaps a hint of that in one of his final campaign appearances when “El Loco” – the madman – as Milei is known, accused his opponent of running a “campaign of fear” and stared starkly into the television cameras promising he would not privatise education, healthcare nor football clubs. 

And yet the man who opposes sex education, feminist policies and abortion – which is legal in Argentina – and rejects the notion that humans have a role in causing climate change, still prevailed at the ballot. 

“Hang on to your hat … it’s going to be a wild ride, given his combative style, inexperience and the few allies he has in Congress,” predicted Benjamin Gedan, director of the Latin America Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center speaking to the Associated Press in the wake of Milei’s election victory.  

Far be it for me to question the judgement of Argentine democracy or the electorate’s decision given that Milei did beat his rival fair and square and not unconvincingly, but Gedan’s assessment I suspect is pretty accurate.  

I understand too that many in Argentina might simply have had enough. But its voters have certainly taken a leap into the unknown.  

As for the implications for Latin America as a whole and even further afield, the world might just have another Trump on its hands.

This too even before the next US election in 2024 looks set to bring back the original.