Left-wing MP Boric wins polarized elections in Chile
Leftist Congressman Gabriel Boric, 35, will become the youngest president in Chilean history after securing a comfortable victory in the South American nation’s most polarized election since his return to democracy ago over 30 years.
With virtually all the votes counted, the millennial progressive who barged in a decade ago as the unkempt-haired student protest leader had garnered nearly 56% of the vote.
This compared to around 44% for his opponent, José Antonio Kast, 55, a career far-right politician and admirer of Chile’s former military dictatorship.
In a Twitter message, Kast said he spoke with Boric and conceded.
“From now on [Boric] is President-elect of Chile and deserves our respect and constructive collaboration, ”said Kast, about an hour after the polls closed. “Chile always comes first.”
Boric will take office on March 11 for a single four-year term. He will be 36 years old on the day of the inauguration.
“I’m going to be the president of all Chileans, those who voted for me, those who didn’t vote, those who didn’t vote,” Boric said on Sunday during a video call with outgoing president Sebastián Piñera.
Boric will face a divided Congress that will force him to negotiate with the right-wing opposition as he begins to attempt to implement an ambitious agenda.
Yet the results represented the left’s latest triumph in Latin America, where the COVID-19 pandemic has hit economies and left many voters embittered over mainstream political parties. Left-wing leaders have been elected since 2020 in two of Chile’s neighbors, Bolivia and Peru, and a center-left president leads neighboring Argentina.
The second round in Chile presented a contrasting study – the former left-wing student activist allied with the Communist Party and the ultraconservative free market that reminds many of former President Trump and his South American staunch Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
In recent weeks, the race has turned into a contest to attract middle voters, with both candidates moderating some of their more extreme positions. The results showed that Boric was more successful in wooing voters beyond his left base.
In the first round of the ballot last month, Kast narrowly finished first and Boric second in a fragmented ballot that saw no one secure a majority, leading to Sunday’s second round. .
The two candidates represent a stunning rebuke from the centrist left and right parties which have alternately governed Chile since 1990, after 17 years of military rule by the late General Augusto Pinochet.
Many voters – citizens of both left and right – seemed motivated to vote in an attempt to prevent a candidate they saw as an extremist from taking power.
“I voted for Boric only so that right-wing fascism does not win,” said Felipe Malinarich, 23, who studied physical training but works repairing washing machines, after voting in the neighborhood worker from San Bernardo, south of Santiago. “I decided to give the lesser evil a chance.”
Among those who voted for Kast was Lucía Barrera, a 69-year-old stay-at-home mom.
“This is a critical election for Chile because, in my humble opinion, our freedom is at stake,” Barrera said after voting in the affluent neighborhood of Las Condes, east of Santiago. “The leftist candidate is allied with the Communist Party, which we all know is not democratic. “
Under the banner of the left-wing coalition I Approve Dignity, Boric has repeatedly denounced “neoliberalism,” the conservative free-trade strategy pioneered by the so-called Chicago Boys – influential university-educated Chilean economists. from Chicago.
“If Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave! Boric said in July.
Since emerging from the Pinochet dictatorship, Chile, the world’s largest copper producer and reliable ally of the United States, has been widely regarded as a rich bastion of stability and economic progress in an unstable region. However, mass street protests in 2019 revealed deep divisions in the country of 19 million people where, amidst considerable wealth, half of the workers earn around $ 500 a month. Opposition to higher public transport fares quickly turned into a national mobilization against inequalities.
Kast, a former congressman who admires Pinochet’s reign, ran on a socially conservative, anti-immigrant, and tax-cut platform reminiscent of Trump. His public order statements won over many who are still angry with the 2019 unrest, which left at least 31 dead, paralyzed the country for months and burned down shopping malls, supermarkets and metro stations. .
Boric was one of the architects of the deal that helped end the 2019 protest and led to a referendum to rewrite the constitution imposed in 1980 by Pinochet.
In his campaign, Boric pledged a “gradual” implementation of his controversial plans to nationalize pension and health care systems, raise the minimum wage to $ 600 per month (from $ 400) and cut the 45 to 40 hour work week. He also dropped a proposal to dissolve the National Police, known as the riflemen, calling instead for reforms.
Special Envoy Poblete reported from Santiago and Times writer McDonnell from Mexico City.