What should have been only the definition of right and left candidates for the October presidential elections in Chile turned out to represent important changes in the main candidates for these elections.
The electoral system provided for internal consultations with each force to define who would be their candidate in October. Only one bloc from the right and one from the left chose this democratic definition. Other forces, including the alliance of the Socialist Party with the Christian Democrats – the Convergence – that had ruled the country until recently, did not use this type of consultation.
The first positive surprise was the participation of the population, higher than in previous consultations. But the main phenomenon behind this increased participation was that of young people, which certainly had a lot to do with the surprising results. Since Chile ended compulsory voting, now under review in Congress, it has drastically reduced turnout in elections, reaching very low levels. The main absentees were young people, privileged victims of political discredit campaigns. Some generations did not even get the electoral title.
This began to change with the large mobilizations that began in 2019, which went through a plebiscite and led to the convocation and election of a Constituent Convention, which begins to draft a new constitution for Chile. Young people were the protagonists of these demonstrations and began to vote in increasing proportions.
In the internal consultation of right and left, the reflection was a change in the results predicted by the surveys. On the right, the main historical leader of the Chilean right, Joaquim Lavín, presented as a candidate for the presidential elections, was defeated by a politician who was from the Christian Democrats and presented himself as an independent, Sebastien Sichel, with more moderate positions. . His victory also represents an obstacle for the DC to have its own candidate, since Sichel has already received votes from that current, made himself known and defeated the extreme right. The center or the search for candidates from a “third way” reduces its space.
Something similar, but much bigger, happened in the left field. First of all, because, showing its strength, the consultation from the left had more participation than from the right, demonstrating how it competes with good prospects in the October elections.
Second, because he designed a candidacy for the renewal of the left, which was built during the campaign, led by the Frente Amplio – the front of various groups of the new Chilean left, which emerged in the framework of student mobilizations, which took place nationals.
Until the consultation, the favorite of the left was a young leader of the Communist Party, Daniel Jadue, who came to head the last general poll for president, with 17%, followed by Lavín with 15%. With a sure performance in the debates and counting on the apparatus of the party, he was considered the probable candidate of the left in October.
In the Broad Front, Beatriz Sánchez, a presidential candidate in 2017, with a surprising 20% of the vote, did not want to run again, leaving room for new leadership. It was this space that was occupied by Gabriel Boric, a leader emerged from the student demonstrations, a lawyer who has just turned 35, the minimum age to be a candidate for the presidency in Chile.
Boric presented himself with a renovating platform for the Chilean left -ecological, feminist, decentralizing, among other aspects- and surprised. He had more than a million votes, with 300 thousand votes difference for Jadue and 60% of the votes. His more democratic style, open to listening to proposals and criticism, appeared as the most consistent with the renewal of the Chilean left, in contrast to Jadue’s harsher and more rigid style. In the case of both the right and the left, the parties were defeated by traditional groups: the right-wing UDI, the left-wing Communist Party, overtaken by a right-wing independent candidate and the left-wing Broad Front.
Boric’s victory represents a great victory for the Broad Front and projects him as a strong candidate in the October presidential elections in Chile. As in the case of the victory of a moderate right candidate, Boric takes space away from Concertación and, in particular, from the Socialist Party, of which a part has already voted for Boric in the FA’s internal consultation.
Boric will have as its first task to consolidate the support of the Communist Party and the sectors that supported Jadue. The latter spoke out immediately in support of Boric and called for unity so that the left can win in October.
The second task is to win the support of the Socialist Party, isolating the Christian Democrats and conquering the forces of the center-left in Chile, to become a national majority force.
Boric has already declared, in the victory speech, that “neoliberalism, which was born in Chile, will die in Chile,” revealing the awareness of the character that his government should have. Unlike the Concertación governments, which maintained the neoliberal model inherited from Pinochet. It will also be able to count on the new Constitution, which must eliminate the remnants of the Pinochet constitution.
Boric has a great challenge ahead of him, first of all, winning the October elections. Then add Chile to the bloc of progressive and anti-neoliberal countries in Latin America.