Chile chooses this Sunday between two visions of the country completely opposed

Gabriel Boric and José Antonio Kast star in elections that have put the country face to face with its past and its future

SANTIAGO, Dec. 18 (.) –

Two completely different visions of Chile clash this Sunday in a presidential election that has been described as the most important since the return to democracy in the Andean country.

The leftist Gabriel Boric and the far-right José Antonio Kast arrive at the meeting having moderated their programs with respect to the first presidential round, seeking to broaden their spectrum of support, but without renouncing the fundamentals of their respective projects for Chile.

Barely two points separated the two politicians a month ago, in an initial appointment that Kast won with 28% of the vote. Now it is Boric who leads the polls, although with a slim margin, close to a technical tie, in most of those polls.

Chile left behind its image of an “oasis” of stability in Latin America two years ago, when massive citizen protests broke out demanding better living conditions and a change towards the social of the neoliberal economic system established by the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973 – 1990). The crisis left some thirty dead and hundreds of detainees.

Boric has made many of the demands of those who took to the streets his own, including them in his program. The progressive candidate proposes raising taxes on the rich, laying the foundations for a social security system, increasing the minimum wage, and reducing the working day to 40 hours a week, for example. It has moderated, yes, some points of its program, lowering the percentage of GDP necessary to carry out its proposals from 8% to 5%.

In addition, he also won the support of the center-left parties of the former Concertación that governed the country for two decades after the return to democracy in the run-up to the second round.

KAST, EMBLEM OF NEOLIBERALISM

Kast has a completely antagonistic economic vision, defending tooth and nail the neoliberal system created by the ‘Chicago Boys’ during the Pinochet dictatorship, a figure that he has publicly defended on numerous occasions, although rejecting the human rights violations that occurred during the civil-military regime.

The candidate considers that the social outbreak was violent, and advocates reducing public spending, eliminating fees, and preserving the current pension system, defending the neoliberal system by arguing that it has placed Chile as the most economically developed country in Latin America.

He has also moderated, yes, his message for the second round, getting the support of the center-right formations that sustained the two presidencies of the outgoing president, Sebastián Piñera.

Kast has lowered his program of tax exemptions for companies and has also ended a controversial project at the Latin American level that aimed to fight the extreme left, seen by some analysts as a new Plan Cóndor.

Neither candidate is likely to be able to make the most disruptive measures in their programs a reality, in part because the legislative elections in November produced a deeply divided parliament, after the right-wing achieved one of the best results in recent history.

A NEW FRAMEWORK

These presidential elections are held in an unprecedented context in the country. The political parties with parliamentary representation approved in 2019, to solve the social outbreak, the beginning of a constituent process, with the prospect of replacing the Magna Carta approved in 1980, during the dictatorship.

In May, the 155 people who would make up the Constituent Convention were elected. The left swept in those elections, unlike in November, and has a large majority among the drafters of the new Magna Carta.

“It is not that Chileans change their minds from one election to another,” explains Claudio Fuentes, an analyst at the Diego Portales University. “In the elections to the Convention, the right won just over a million votes. That is, the right-wing people did not go to vote,” he explained.

“On the other hand, people on the left did manage to mobilize for that event. Six months later, in the legislative elections, what happened is that the right regained its capacity for electoral mobilization, which is close to three million votes, and of them 1 , 9 million were inclined by the most conservative segment of the right “, clarifies the political scientist.

The results of the presidential elections are also decisive for the future of the Constitutional Convention, more comfortable with a Boric government due to ideological affinity.

“Boric will support the constituent without conditions, while it is likely that Kast will support by default, without supporting,” explains Juan Pablo Luna, a political scientist at the Catholic University of Chile.

“It is possible, yes, that he also decides to confront the Convention from the Presidency. In the event that he remains in the opposition, he will be the leader of the rejection option in the exit plebiscite. The result of that referendum will end depending on who be elected in the second round and the popularity of that president in the middle of next year, “adds the analyst.

The undecided and the number of participation will decide the final result of an election that has divided the country, and faced families and groups of friends.

Chile is a traditionally abstentionist country. In the first round, only 47% of Chileans went to vote, a figure, yes, higher than that of other presidential appointments in recent decades.

“As the election is competitive, in theory more people should participate. The higher levels of polarization and the effect that the first round result had on both candidates could stimulate greater participation,” comments analyst Fuentes.

There is a certain academic consensus, refuted, of course, by a sector of political scientists, that greater participation benefits Boric in elections that are also a plebiscite against neoliberalism.

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