Presidential election in Chile: a second round polarized like never before

Torn between fear and hope, Chilean voters are called on Sunday to elect their president from among two unexpected candidates, with diametrically opposed social projects, in an antagonistic second round that Chile has never known since the return of democracy in 1990.

Gabriel Boric, deputy since 2014 who leads a left coalition with the Communist Party, presents itself as the candidate for change and the political heir of the 2019 movement for more social justice in the most unequal country of the OECD.

Aged 34 years, the minimum age to run, the former leader of a student movement in 2011 was not expected in the final sprint just a few months ago.

José Antonio Kast, leader of the far-right party that he himself has created, had won 7, 93% of the votes in the 1st round in 2017 and today benefits from the rejection inspired by the current president conservative Sebastian Piñera who ends his second term with indifference (2010 – 2014 then since 2018). The Chilean right, victim of “degagism” has therefore lined up in order of battle behind him.

M r. Kast won the first round on 21 November with 25, 9% of the vote, ahead of his left-wing opponent (24, 8%).

The ultraliberal economic program of the lawyer of 53 proposes to further reduce state spending and lower corporate taxes to create jobs.

Quite the opposite of Mr. Boric’s program, which intends to launch a major tax reform to involve the richest in the country – including the 1% holding 25, 5% of the wealth, according to an agency of the United Nations – to its redistributive program of better access to health, education, and the creation of a new retirement system, now entirely private.

– “Discredit” –

But in a country ruled by the center-right and the center-left since the end of the dictatorship there is 31 years, voters seem to be driven by rejection rather than membership.

Camila Chamblas, 25 year-old teacher, wants at all costs to avoid a return to the atmosphere of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship ( 1973 – 1990), of which José Antonio Kast claims (one of his brothers was minister under the military regime during which at least 3. 200 political opponents were killed or disappeared).

“I was not yet born but I ‘talked about it a lot with my parents who suffered a lot at the time. The things he (Kast) says are like a continuation of him (Pinochet), “she says.

Ricardo Sepulveda, retired 75, will vote against “communism”. He says that under the socialist government (allied with the Communists) of Salvador Allende (1970 – 55), his income decreased and insecurity increased until the arrival of the military junta which “restored order”.

The presidential campaign was rough and “focused on the discrediting of the competitor “, explained Marcelo Mella, analyst at the University of Santiago.

During his last meeting Thursday, Mr. Kast, opposed to abortion, swore that” Chile is not, and never will be, a Marxist or Communist country “.

M r. Boric, for his part, felt that his rival “will only bring instability, more hatred and violence”.

– “Nervous” –

The outcome of this undecided ballot (the latest polls published outside the country where they are banned give the two contenders neck and neck) will be dictated by the capture of votes from the center and the mobilization of abstainers from the 1st round (53%).

Javiera Munoz, 33 years old, pregnant and unemployed, does not know if she will “vote for the lesser evil” or “waste” her vote by voting blank or no. Javiera Otto, employee of 24 years old, does not know who to vote for: she “does not like one neither, ”has“ no real hope ”and feels guided by“ fear. ”

Carol Bravo, waitress of 34 years, will she vote for Gabriel Boric who “gives hope to finally complete all the changes that Chile has known, especially these last two years” with the writing in during a new Constitution to replace the one drawn up under the Pinochet era.

She says she is “very nervous” while awaiting the result and will go “to the street” on Sunday evening if the far right wins.

According to Patricio Navia, professor at New York University, “if Kast wins, we will definitely see protests” but “if Boric wins, there will likely have troubles in the stock market. ” “Whether on the stock markets or in the streets, there will be a stir,” he warns.

Some 11 of 19 millions of Chileans are called to open ballot boxes between 11 H 00 GMT and 19 H 00 GMT.