Home WORLD AMERICA Presidential election in Chile: a second round polarized like never before

Presidential election in Chile: a second round polarized like never before

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Some 15 of the 19 million Chileans are called to decide between two candidates neck and neck in the latest polls. The name of Sebastian Piñera’s successor is expected to be known soon after the polls close.

Gabriel Boric, deputy since 2014, leads a left coalition with the Communist Party. He presents himself as the candidate for change and the political heir of the 2019 movement for more social justice in the most unequal country of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Aged 35, the minimum age to run, the former leader of a student movement in 2011 was not expected in the final sprint just a few months ago.

It is possible to make Chile more human, more worthy, more egalitarian, said the one who wants to make Chile a Welfare state, after having voted in his hometown of Punta Arenas, in the far south of the country, on the Strait of Magellan.

An election with an uncertain outcome

If we lose we will recognize it […] We will respect the result, whatever it may be, without installing the veil of doubt. But we will win and expect reciprocal recognition from our opponent, he added.

He was referring to fears that far-right candidate José Antonio Kast would challenge the validity of the electoral process, like former US President Donald Trump, whom he says he admires as much as Brazil’s Jair Bolsanoro.

Repeating, after having voted in his town of Paine, 30 km south of Santiago, to be the candidate of order, justice and security, Mr. Kast, nostalgic for the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), said he expected a tight result.

He announced that in case of defeat, he might not recognize the election result if the difference between the two candidates was less than 50,000 votes.

Arrived in fourth position in 2017 (7.93%), Mr. Kast triumphed in the first round at the end of November (27.9% against 25.8% for Mr. Boric) at the head of the far-right party The Republicans which he himself created in 2018.

He takes advantage of the rejection inspired by the conservative president Sebastian Piñera, who ends his second term with indifference (2010-2014 and then since 2018). The Chilean right is therefore lined up in order of battle behind him.

The 55-year-old lawyer’s ultraliberal economic agenda calls for further cuts in state spending and lower corporate taxes to create jobs.

Quite the opposite of the program of the thirty-something Boric, which intends to launch a major tax reform to involve the richest of the country (1% of the inhabitants holding 26.5% of the wealth, according to a UN agency) in its redistributive program of ‘better access to health, education, and the creation of a new pension system, which is now entirely private.

Voters torn between hope and fear

But in a country ruled by center-right and center-left since the end of the dictatorship 31 years ago, voters seem to be driven by rejection rather than membership.

The presidential campaign was rough and focused on discrediting the competitor, explained Marcelo Mella, political scientist at the University of Santiago.

After having voted, President Piñera also regretted a campaign in an environment of excessive polarization, confrontation, arguments.

The outcome of this undecided ballot will be dictated by the capture of votes from the center and the mobilization of abstainers from the 1st round (53%).

I hope that Chile will enter a new phase and be able to test the concept of the welfare state.Sebastian Vera, 35, a history teacher and Gabriel Boric supporter, said on the way to the polls.

But if Antonio Kast wins, he says he fears a flashback […] where our neoliberal system will become even more ruthless than it already is.

Nataly Hidd, a 32-year-old civil servant, also says she has fear of what can happen to his country after the vote, certain that he there will be protests one way or another.

Nicolas Julio, a 21-year-old student, is he lost. He does trust neither and did not yet know on the way to the polling station who was the candidate of the lesser evil.

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