After leading in the polls for months, Javier Milei, a far-right libertarian economist, tumbled to second place in Argentina’s election on Sunday, sending him to a runoff next month that will be an important test of strength for the global far-right movement.

Mr. Milei, 53, will face off against Sergio Massa, 51, Argentina’s center-left economy minister who finished a surprise first Sunday and who will now try to persuade voters he can save the nation of 46 million from the economic turmoil that his government helped create.

Mr. Massa earned 36 percent of the vote, to Mr. Milei’s 30 percent, with 92 percent of the votes counted. Candidates needed to surpass 45 percent, or 40 percent with a 10-point margin of victory, to avoid a runoff.

Since winning the primary election in August, Mr. Milei had been leading most polls, with Mr. Massa in second. But many voters on Sunday showed that they preferred a more familiar candidate — Mr. Massa has spent more than two decades in Argentine politics — to Mr. Milei, who has spent his career as a corporate economist and then television pundit.

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