Friday, January 28

What is Chile at stake in the second round of very tight presidential elections?

On Sunday night a heart attack is expected in Chile. The vote count for the second round of the presidential elections is forecast to be very tight and there is no certainty as to what will happen. The dispute faces, on the one hand, the leftist candidate Gabriel Boric, who came second on November 21 with 25.8% of the votes; and on the other, to the standard-bearer of the extreme right José Antonio Kast who, against all odds, won the contest with 27.9%.

Daniel Matamala, Chilean journalist: “In Chile two ultras are not facing each other, Kast and Boric are not equivalent”

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According to the polls, Boric would surpass his rival by very few votes, but in the first round they anticipated similar results and Kast ended up surpassing him. So now no one dares to make predictions to one side or the other.

The campaign in this second phase has been marked by the steps towards the center that both candidates have taken, in search of the most moderate voter and to move away from the extremes. The leftist has emphasized issues of public safety and control of irregular migration, while his rival has moderated the tax cut and eliminated several of the proposals he presented for the first round, such as the repeal of the abortion law. in three cases or the elimination of the Ministry of Women.

“Boric started from a more centrist position and never had extreme proposals, he made a social democratic program from the beginning and was advised by center-left economists,” explains Claudia Heiss, political scientist at the Institute of Public Affairs of the University of Chile. According to her, Kast “has made a stronger change because his position was more extreme” and has eliminated proposals that were on his program. “That is less credible,” he considers.

Determining factors in the results

Claudio Fuentes, historian and academic from the Diego Portales University, highlights that in the campaign for the second round Boric has been able to “make his positions more flexible and accept political reality.” De Kast, highlights that he managed to have the support of all the right-wing parties quickly “without having major internal conflicts.” However, he criticizes the “little credibility” in relation to his program and the changes it made, as well as the “politically incorrect” statements made by some of the “extreme right groups” that accompany it.

According to experts, there are sociodemographic factors that will be decisive when defining the result. Boric attracts the most feminine, urban, young and upper-middle-class vote. Kast, on the other hand, adds more male followers, older, in rural areas and regions and from the upper and popular classes. “We will see if the greater moderation of both and the electoral segmentation strategies that they have had will allow to tip the balance in favor of one or the other”, comments Fuentes.

Another element that will mark the outcome is fear, understood as a mobilizing element. “There is a fear of disorder, of the communist threat posed by the right-wing despite the fact that Boric does not belong to the Communist Party and that he will mobilize his electorate a lot,” says Heiss. According to her, Chile has generated “a reaction that favors Kast” in the face of instability in recent years, especially since the social outbreak of 2019, the pandemic and the economic crisis. Boric, for his part, has managed to mobilize intellectuals, academics and artists in his favor and has dressed his campaign with a certain optimism. Experts agree that turnout figures will not change much and that the factors for victory are more closely associated with the demographic segments that will come out to vote.

Controversial end of campaign

This Thursday both candidates called their respective campaign closings. Boric did it in a park in the center of Santiago, a few meters from the La Moneda palace, while Kast chose a park in the eastern sector, the wealthiest in the metropolitan area and where he beat his rival in the first round.

“We are a generation that learns from those who were before and we unite to defeat the dictatorship, to democratize Chile, to have a new Constitution and now we are also going to unite to defeat the heir of this Government and of Pinochetism and to install hope in Chile, “Boric said. Kast, for his part, spoke of “recovering peace, order, the rule of law and, above all, dignity in people’s lives. Because dignity is what we lack, but the true one”. At the meetings, the two called on people to sign up as proxies to monitor voting. This week, representatives of the right spread the idea that if the result is adjusted, it is likely to have to go through the electoral court and that it will not be resolved on Sunday. Kast endorsed the comment, while Boric marked distances: “I trust the electoral results and I trust the institutions that are going to deliver them. I am not going to question them.”

The end of the campaign events were also marked by the death of Lucía Hiriart, widow of the dictator Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), who died on Thursday afternoon at the age of 99. At the same time that the two rallies began, which were attended by thousands of supporters, hundreds of other people gathered in Plaza Baquedano, the epicenter of recent social protests, with the intention of celebrating what for many represents another step towards the end of the Pinochet legacy. The event caught everyone by surprise and both candidates tried to surf a scenario that could be complicated hours before the election. “Lucía Hiriart dies in impunity despite the deep pain and division that she caused our country. My respects to the victims of the dictatorship to which she was a part. I do not celebrate impunity or death,” Boric said on Twitter. Kast also spoke: “I do not want to make a political fact of this […] I see that there are people celebrating; It is not what one would expect, someone’s death is always painful. ”

Both Kast and Boric come to the end of the most polarized election campaign in 30 years. This Sunday not only will the future president be elected, but also one of the two models of the country that are at stake and that are totally opposite. The winner will also head a new government that will have the challenge of accompanying the final stretch of the ongoing constituent process. One of the two will be installed in La Moneda as of March 11, 2022.