Chile is still reeling from the explosion of anti-government protests in October 2019, when troops were ordered back onto the streets for the first time since the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, which ended in 1990. The unrest was triggered by a rise in the metro fare in Santiago and then became about inequality and high living costs. Some violence. Public buildings ransacked and schools had to close. Then came Covid-19. Like much of today’s politics, the two candidates have completely opposing views and there is not much in between.
Jose Antonio Kast: Very conservative. Came out on top in the first round of voting on 21st November 2021. He is 55, a Catholic and has 9 children. He has said he will defend economic freedom, law, order and traditional family values. In a Trump like promise, he has proposed digging a 3 metre deep ditch across northern Chile to keep out migrants from Haiti and Venezuela. He has also promised to cut taxes and support small businesses. He has scaled back planned tax rises for businesses and the wealthy from an additional 7% to 5%. He has pledged not to go back on social reforms that have already been made, atalthough he is anti-abortion under any circumstances.
Gabriel Boric: A 35 year old former student union leader who led student protests in 2011 asking for better education provisions. Some are worried that if he wins, Chile could bring in a similar agenda to that of Venezuela’s former authoritarian socialist president, Hugo Chavez. Boric has trimmed his beard to look smart in time for the elections this Sunday. Since the first round, Boric has picked up speed. He has started talking about fiscal discipline to allay the fears of those who worry he is a political novice with no experience. Boric is backed by a coalition that includes the hard left Communist Party, and has said that he will address the concerns of the October 2019 protest movement: higher taxes; more public spending; a reduction in the working week; scrapping of private pension schemes and a long list of reforms to empower women, indigenous groups and minorities.
Fans of Boric are worried about Kast’s praise of the previous Pinochet dictatorship and have concerns that he will roll back on social reforms such as gay marriage and limited abortion. Kast has since rolled back on some of this praise and has abandoned some of the ideas in social policies that he ran on initially.
Whoever wins will need to redraft Chile’s Pinochet era Constitution, which needs to be implemented by July 2022. Once drafted, a referendum will be held within 60 days seeking the electorate’s approval. Sebastian Pinera, President during the October 2019 protests, agreed in November 2019 to a new constitution to quell the protests.
The electorate chose a left leaning, progressive 155 member Constitutional Convention (CC). The left will want fiscal and social reforms and the right will worry about what it’s going to cost them and the potential loss of investors that comes with it. The left back same sex marriage, the right do not.
Additionally, a new Constitution could reduce Presidential powers and shorten the terms. Whoever wins, it won’t be easy.
UPDATE – RESULT:
Almost 99 percent of polling stations reporting, Gabriel Boric won 56 percent of the votes, compared with 44 percent for his conservative opponent, Jose Antonio Kast.
Sources and further reading:
The fight for the future of Chile
Chilean democracy faces a critical test
Gabriel Boric wins Chile’s presidential election