Chile will live a few weeks with the country split in two while waiting to elect a president. The far-right José Antonio Kast and the leftist Gabriel Boric will contest the replacement of Sebastián Piñera in La Moneda on December 19, after prevailing in the first round of the presidential elections this Sunday. Kast has added 28% of the votes, compared to 25.5% for his rival. It will be the duel between two diametrically opposed models of the country: on the one hand, the one that demands security and the restoration of the peace lost since the revolts of 2019 shook the roots of the democratic transition that began in 1990; on the other, the one who is not satisfied with the achievements of the “Chilean miracle” and wants a radical change of course that adds social rights. A process of alliances with the center formations has already begun, which were left out of the fight, losing the strength they had in the past.
José Antonio Kast is an ultra who has promised to open a ditch in the north of the territory to detain immigrants. He defends the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, Donald Trump and sympathizes with the Vox party in Spain. His economic agenda is that of an extreme liberal and his social agenda that of a conservative who rejects abortion or equal marriage. With no options at the beginning of the campaign, he began to climb positions with promises of order and more security. This is how it fell into those sectors that seek to restore social order prior to the 2019 demonstrations. Their proposals transcended the traditional right-wing voter, concentrated in the richest sectors, and permeated those who in other circumstances would have voted for the center.
In his celebratory speech, Kast insisted on the strategy that brought him the most votes: he said that his eventual government will focus on fighting crime, drug trafficking and terrorism. “The only candidacy that will restore peace, which is the alternative to confront criminals and drug trafficking and that will put an end to terrorism is ours. Gabriel Boric and the Communist Party want to pardon the vandals who destroy. It must be said, it was Boric and the Communist Party who met with murderous terrorists and have never been on the side of the victims of terrorism and crime, “he said.
Gabriel Boric, candidate of the left-wing alliance I Approve Dignity, represents the agenda of the young people who were the protagonists of the social unrest. At 35 years old, a victory in December would make him the youngest president to ever set foot in La Moneda. Boric was a student leader in 2011, when the first street calls for quality free education and public health occurred. His proposals, drawn up in alliance with the Communist Party, represent a 180 degree turn to the economic liberalism that has marked Chilean development in the last 30 years. Boric has promised a greater presence of the State in the economy and, above all, to end the pension model, now in private hands. Tonight, Boric answered Kast directly. “To those who fear crime we say that we are going to be with you and that we will be implacable with drug trafficking,” he said. He also asked to avoid “arrogance” to convince those who did not vote for Approve Dignity. “What we have to do is understand why they chose different alternatives, and convince them that we are a better way to lead them to a fairer country. In order to win in this second round we have to be humble and receptive ”, he added.
The great loser of the day has been the center of the political spectrum. Sebastián Sichel (12.5%), the electoral option of the right-wing president Sebastián Piñera, and the Christian Democrat Yasna Provoste (11.7%), heir to the transition parties, were far behind in fourth and fifth place, respectively. Between the two they did not add up to 25%. The surprise was given by Franco Parisi, a candidate who campaigned from the United States without setting foot in Chile, where he cannot enter due to a debt for food that he maintains with the mother of his children. Parisi practically did not participate in the debates – only in those that allowed his participation online – and did not vote this Sunday. The economist obtained 13% with an anti-immigrant speech.
They now begin 28 days of frantic negotiations to get support. The natural thing is that Boric takes the votes of Yasna Provoste. In acknowledging her defeat, the senator said that her party, the Christian Democracy, “will not allow the advance of fascism represented by José Antonio Kast.” But he was prudent in his support for Boric, warning that whatever the result of the ballot, his party will be in opposition. “It will be important to hear what Boric is going to offer the country,” he said.
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Sichel also gave some clues, but in the opposite direction. “I am not going to vote for Boric and I have programmatic differences with Kast, which I am willing to talk to,” he said. Parisi’s votes, meanwhile, are a mystery. Like a sniper, he captured a mixed discontent with no defined political identity.
The president emerging from the December 19 election will have a huge challenge. He will have to govern a tense country, with broad sectors that demand a radical transformation and another that only wants to restore what was lost. It must also coexist with the Constituent Assembly, which is currently writing a new Constitution to bury the one inherited from Augusto Pinochet. The Assembly was the political response to the October riots. And its conformation reflected the demands of the moment. Composed of a majority of independent candidates, aligned mainly to the left, it will prepare a text that will have to be endorsed in a popular vote. The vote for Kast casts doubt on the Assembly’s ability to propose a text that passes the filter of Chile that is emerging in the more conservative periphery.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.