Sunday’s presidential elections in Chile confirmed that the country will face a second-round runoff between José Antonio Kast and Gabriel Boric, as both fell short of the majority required to win the election in the first round. Kast obtained 27.8% of the vote while Boric received the support of 25.7% of the electorate. Despite the importance of the election, voter turnout was just 47%.
Kast’s first-round victory was especially surprising, explained a Chilean political analyst, “There were two big surprises from last Sunday: first that Kast beat Boric with practically no official support from any major political party and second that Parisi, another conservative, surpassed centrist Provoste and Sichel. None of the centrist candidates gained significant support and this polarised result pitches the far right against the far left in the second round.”
“None of the centrist candidates gained significant support and this polarised result pitches the far right against the far left in the second round.”
Political analyst, Chile
Kast is a far right lawyer. Son of German migrants, he is an outspoken Pinochet supporter who opposes marriage equality. He has vowed to restrict migration and centred his political agenda on security following anti-migrant incidents in Iquique mostly targeting Venezuelans. A confessed Thatcherite, Kast favours tax cuts and a smaller role for the state by intensifying Pinochet’s model. The political analyst commented, “Kast started with very little support which has increased steadily, based on a discourse aimed at restoring order and respect for the law.”
Boric is a 35-year-old former student leader of a coalition of parties associated with the Communist Party. He mostly represents the protest movement which led to the Constitutional Convention and his political programme is based on feminist, green, anti-racist, participatory and decentralised measures. Victory for Boric would likely put an end to the predominance of private companies in the offering of public services introduced during the Pinochet era. Boric aims to put an end to Chile’s highly privatised pension systems and, at the same time, reform private education and reduce the gap between public and private healthcare.
The strong performance of centre-right candidates increases Kast’s chances of victory. Franco Parisi, a US-based liberal economist came third with 13% of the vote. Sebastián Sichel, a candidate supported by the incumbent President Sebastián Piñera, came fourth with 12%. Their voters will likely go to Kast in the 19 December second round.
“Undoubtedly, national and international financial markets see a Kast victory as favourable,” explained a Chilean economist, “but there are some doubts around the viability of some of his proposals. On the other hand, Boric is seen as more ambitious and irresponsible, aimed at great structural and social change. The markets are also concerned about Boric’s apparent support for violent protests.”
“Undoubtedly, national and international financial markets see a Kast victory as favourable, but there are some doubts around the viability of some of his proposals.”
Chile also voted to elect 155 Senate seats and 27 of the 50 upper house seats. The far-right is expected to obtain 23 seats in the Senate with 22 for the left and the balance going to independent candidates. The new Congress will have to approve the new constitutional text, the economist reported, “The Constitutional Convention has been losing support steadily since inception, mainly due to the feeling of citizens that it does not reflect the interests of the electorate properly. With Kast the more likely winner at this stage, the largely left-wing Convention will probably seek to moderate its discourse so as not to lose more citizen support and run the risk that the text it presents is rejected. It is also very likely that the Convention will seek to reduce the period of Kast’s presidential mandate by constitutional means – this will be a strained relationship.”