Polar Opposing Candidates Head to Second Round in Chile

José Antonio Kast, a far-right candidate, won 28 percent of the vote during Sunday’s elections in Chile, losing the 50 percent needed to avoid a second round.

Kast, whose recent surge in popularity has surprised critics, has at times been compared to former US President Donald Trump and current Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

He will face Gabriel Boric, 35, a left-wing candidate and former student leader, who came in second with 25 percent of the vote.

Representing the polar opposites of Chile’s presidential race, Boric and Kast are now heading for a runoff on December 19.

This election comes two years after massive protests and riots rocked the country in October 2019, with protesters demanding better pensions, better education and an end to an economic system they said favors the elite.

The riots led the now outgoing president Sebastián Piñera to accept a plebiscite on the need to change the constitution inherited from the dictatorship; a year later, Chileans overwhelmingly voted to draft a new constitution.

But Chile has yet to regain the stability for which it was once known. It has been hard hit economically by the pandemic, and brutal clashes between protesters and security forces continue weekly in Santiago.

Make Chile great again?  Meet the far-right presidential candidate tempting voters on the left and central Chile

Considering the recent past, Boric was widely perceived as the presidential candidate who best represented the country’s social movement. He is a supporter of the right to abortion, a model of the welfare state, and leads a broad coalition that includes the Communist Party of Chile.

But a powerful current of support for Kast, seen by some voters as representing stability and security, has upset predictions about the race. Kast emphasized the rule of law, private property, a free market economy, and has even proposed building a 10-foot ditch at strategic points along Chile’s northern border to stem the flow of migrants from other countries.

In an address to the nation on Sunday, outgoing President Piñera congratulated both candidates.


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