Two after the social uprising, the Chileans elect their president

Two years after an unprecedented social uprising against social inequalities and in the midst of the process of drafting a new Constitution, a Chile in full doubt goes to the polls on Sunday for a particularly undecided presidential election.

Fifteen million Chileans are called upon to nominate among seven candidates the successor of conservative president Sebastian Piñera, 71, who after two terms cannot stand for re-election and leaves power with a low popularity rating (12%).

Among the two favorites in the latest polls, credited with around a quarter of the voting intentions, are two candidates at the extremes of the political landscape and outside the right-wing and center-left coalitions that have ruled the country since the end of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).

On the one hand, Gabriel Boric, 35, former student leader and candidate for the left-wing coalition “Apruebo dignidad” which includes the Communists in particular; on the other, José Antonio Kast, a 55-year-old lawyer and leader of the far-right Republican Party, which is riding the unpopularity of the outgoing government.

“Those who have never been favorites now appear to be favorites,” said Raul Elgueta, political scientist at the University of Santiago, for AFP. “These are the last elections of the old cycle and they could have a different outcome than what we have had” so far, adds the academic.

Just behind the two favorites stand out two former ministers, the Christian Democrat (center-left) Yasna Provoste, 51, and the right-wing liberal, Sebastian Sichel, 44.

But the low reliability of the polls – demonstrated in recent polls – their ban two weeks before the election, combined with a high proportion of undecided and an increase in Covid-19 cases, make any prediction on the qualified difficult. for the second round of December 19.

Another unknown, the participation of young people, strongly mobilized in the street since the uprising at the end of 2019 for more social justice, but who regularly express their little interest in the candidates’ proposals.

According to a study by the National Youth Institute, 77% of young people will “probably” or “definitely” vote on Sunday.

– “Hard time” –

This particularly open ballot comes just two years after an unprecedented social crisis in the South American country to demand a fairer society after decades of ultra-liberal policies.

Presidential election in Chile (AFP – Nicolas RAMALLO)

Gabriel Boric could benefit from the aspiration of many Chileans for more social equality, a reform of the private pension system and an increased presence of the State in the health and education sectors.

“It is extremely important (…) to build a state which guarantees rights, dignity and equality, the only way to have stability”, argued Friday the youngest presidential candidate in history from Chile, during its last meeting.

But analysts have also observed a recent rise in the far right in the face of violent actions by the most radical protesters and fueled by growing voter concerns over illegal immigration and crime.

Especially since the pandemic has raised unemployment, widened the debt and that inflation is now around 6%, a novelty in the country.

“Two models of society clash. The one we represent, of freedom and justice, and (…) a country we do not want and which would fall into chaos, hunger and violence,” said José Antonio Kast, at the end of his campaign, alongside his wife and eight of his nine children.

Whoever is “who will be elected president will face a difficult period,” predicts Claudia Heiss, professor of political science at the University of Chile, stressing the risks of “social conflict” when aid has helped to support the economy during the pandemic will end.

Soldiers patrol in front of the electoral office installed in the Gualberto Kong Fernandez school in Vallenar, Chile, on November 20, 2021 (AFP - JAVIER TORRES)
Soldiers patrol in front of the electoral office installed in the Gualberto Kong Fernandez school in Vallenar, Chile, on November 20, 2021 (AFP – JAVIER TORRES)

Another uncertainty, the Constitution which will emerge from the work started in June by the Constituent Assembly. The text, which could review the prerogatives of the president and parliament, will be submitted to Chileans by referendum during the coming term.

On Sunday, the Chileans will also renew their 155 deputies, 27 of the 43 senators and regional councils. The polling stations will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time (11 a.m. to 9 p.m. GMT). The results are expected in the evening.

Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by

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