Monday 22 November 2021
Boric versus Kast
Chile is going to the runoff election
Chile has long been considered a shining example in South America, which is characterized by poverty, violence and political unrest. But society is changing. In the presidential elections, a left-wing and an ultra-conservative candidate are vying for the highest office in the country.
Chile is drifting apart: After the first round of the presidential election, an exchange of blows between the political differences over the highest office of the state is emerging in the South American country. The right-wing candidate José Antonio Kast, of German origin, received a good 28 percent of the vote, as the electoral office announced. Around 25 percent of the voters voted for the young left-wing politician Gabriel Boric. This means that the two applicants from the extreme fringes of the political spectrum should move into the runoff election on December 19.
Kast of the Republican Party wants to cut taxes, limit immigration and crack down on criminals. He has never clearly distanced himself from the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) and sympathizes with the far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Some Chilean media classify Kast as right-wing extremists and fascists.
The only 35 year old candidate Boric from the left-wing electoral alliance “Apruebo Dignidad” (I agree with the dignity) campaigns for the expansion of the welfare state, climate protection and women’s rights. “Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave,” said the former student leader and MP for the Magallanes region during the election campaign.
Traditional parties fail
The traditional party structure in Chile is now history due to the election results. For the first time since the return to democracy in 1990, traditional center-left and center-right parties did not even make it to the runoff election. The economist Franco Parisi also caused a surprise, with a good 13 percent of the vote, relegating well-known candidates such as Sebastián Sichel from the government alliance “Chile Vamos” and the former Senate President Yasna Provoste from the Christian Democratic Party. The libertarian politician doesn’t even live in Chile and still ended up in third place.
For a long time Chile was considered a shining example in a region characterized by poverty, violence and political unrest. The country has the highest per capita income in South America, and poverty has been reduced significantly in recent decades. In addition, Chile has an active civil society; since the return to democracy, moderate left and right governments have alternated.
Today Chile is in crisis: the government has declared a state of emergency in some regions in the south of the country because of arson attacks and attacks by radical indigenous people from the Mapuche people. President Sebastián Piñera narrowly avoided impeachment proceedings over a dubious mining deal last week.
The country also suffers from great social inequality. Large parts of the health and education system have been privatized, and more and more people feel left behind. Two years ago, thousands took to the streets against the government every day for weeks.
New constitution in progress
The wave of protests was initially sparked by a slight increase in local public transport prices. But it soon became a matter of fundamentals: the demonstrators demanded better access to health care and education as well as a move away from the neoliberal economic system. They were finally able to prevail with one of their main demands; a constituent assembly is currently working on a new constitution. The current text dates from the time of the Pinochet dictatorship.
All MPs and half of the senators were re-elected on Sunday. Should the new constitution be adopted in a referendum, it would be up to the parliamentarians to implement the political and social reforms envisaged therein.