The results of the presidential election in Chile caused surprise and questions. A country that took a turn to the left six months ago dawns on Monday with strong support for the extreme right of José Antonio Kast, who won the highest number of votes and will face the leftist Gabriel Boric in the second round.
Although the polls prior to the elections in Chile pointed to a technical tie -as almost happened in practice since the two candidates are separated by a 2% difference-, the far-right José Antonio Kast prevailed as the winner of the first round of the presidential ones, when gathering almost 28% of the votes. For his part, the leftist and former student leader Gabriel Boric achieved almost 26% of the preferences. Neither of them reached a majority and they will have to face each other in a second round, scheduled for December 19.
However, with the fresh memory of the regional elections in June that favored the forces of the left, many thought of a wider and more forceful victory for Boric. With the numbers on, his Sunday night speech tasted like defeat. The former student leader barely changed the number of supporters he had achieved in primary elections and, therefore, did not increase his mass of voters, which were concentrated in a very significant way in the urban population, younger, of the Metropolitan Region.
Meanwhile, Kast swept all regions of the country. In some, such as Araucanía, recently militarized by the government of Sebastián Piñera and where the candidate proposes a strong hand and more strength, he achieved an overwhelming majority of 42% of the votes compared to 16% for Boric.
For their part, these elections also marked the collapse of the two coalitions that have governed Chile since the return to democracy: the center-right represented by Sebastián Sichel added only 13% and the center-left of Yasna Provoste reached 12%.
Kast, a Pinochetista who promoted the triumph of the right
In addition to Kast’s leadership in the first round, the right achieved a historic result in the Senate, which renewed a part of its members and where it obtained the highest representation since the return of democracy. While the Chamber of Deputies is characterized by a greater division of forces, and by a greater female representation, which went from 36 to 55 women. Thus, it constitutes a third of this body, made up of 155 deputies.
“The first surprise is José Antonio Kast, who represents the extreme right and the vindication of the toughest Pinochetism, whose agenda includes anti-immigration, the armed struggle in the south of the country, the restoration of public order as a result of what happened in the social outbreak, through the denial of the violation of human rights and support for the Chilean Police and the Armed Forces ”, analyzes for France 24 Rodrigo Espinoza, doctor in Political Science and academic from the Diego Portales University.
Kast, who has never denied his admiration for the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, was successful in distancing himself from the low popularity of the current government of Sebastián Piñera. “He managed to position himself as an opponent of Piñera instead of as a follower, being the natural follower obviously Sichel,” says the analyst.
Boric, affected by the weakness of his coalition outside his electoral stronghold
For Espinoza, Boric’s result, more disappointing, is due to “the weakness that (the coalition of the) Broad Front has historically had in the last 8 years”, in relation to the fact that “it is very strong in its traditional electoral bastion”, which is the Metropolitan Region together with the cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, but it is getting thinner in other regions. “In the north and south of the country, Boric’s candidacy did not perform well. His campaign should focus on a more exhaustive territorial work ”, says the analyst.
According to the academic, Boric fails to convince the electorate of more rural regions, with a proposal more linked for many to a European left similar to that of Podemos in Spain. His plan does not resonate with the Chilean regional sectors, despite claiming his origins as Magellan, in the southern Patagonian of the country, and waving a decentralizing discourse.
For Marcelo Mella, political analyst at the University of Santiago (USACH), the results “confirm the polarization scenario that has characterized this presidential race in Chile” and project a radicalization for the second round.
Mella indicates that “the spell of October 18” (in relation to the start date of the protests that led to the social outbreak of 2019), which was manifested both in the plebiscite for constitutional reform and in the election of Constituent Constituents last May, it appears to have been limited. For the analyst, there was a brake “on institutional transformation due to problems and emergencies derived from the economic crisis of the pandemic.” Thus, “there are two competing forces, one that is oriented towards transformation in the long term and the other that is oriented towards recovering conditions of stability and order in the short term,” says Mella.
Transformative impulse vs perception of security
“It operates an antagonistic force to the transformative impulse that is a demand for security and stability derived from the economic effects of the pandemic and also from the uncertainty of Gabriel Boric’s project on how to resolve the issue of public order, which is a problem that Chile drags. from the social outbreak ”, Mella analyzes.
For the analyst, the shift to the right in different regions of the country is explained “because the problem of public order has different dimensions and intensity”.
While in the north of the Andean nation the problem is linked to drug trafficking and illegal immigration that has aroused concern among the population, in the south the “repeated ineffectiveness of different political signs has become a more serious situation due to the levels of violence ”With organizations that bring arms into the country and use counter-insurgency strategies around the conflict with the Mapuche population and indigenous peoples and their ancestral claims.
The sources of violence, another decisive element in the campaign
For Mella, from 1989 onwards an issue that has not been adequately resolved in Chile “is the growth of certain sources of violence”, be it political or criminal – linked to drug trafficking, among other scourges – which today for broad sectors society requires an urgent and urgent solution. In this sense, “the discourse of the recovery and reestablishment of order could have an electoral traction” that exceeds the transformative impulse of social change, Mella considers.
Miguel Angel López, academic at the Institute of Public Affairs and the Institute of International Studies of the University of Chile, agrees on this point. For him, Boric “made a very big mistake and it is that within his political discourse he did not give much importance to security and crime”. “It was a tactical error because if you watch Chilean television it is full of reports on crime” , Explain.
“A month ago, Boric began to give more force to the security speech, but it was a little late. The discourse of order, citizen security is more linked to the right and many perceive Kast as more capable ”to carry out this type of policy, indicates López. These are of interest not only to people with high economic incomes, but also to small businessmen, workers or people who live in more vulnerable sectors, such as towns or camps.
“The people of the center began to be scared with the arrival of Boric to power (favorite in the polls for a while) mainly because his economic programs are not very clear and have been considered by many as quite unreal,” adds López, noting that Nor is Kast’s economic program considered very real.
“A great fear of the economic collapse of the country began, with news of capital flight, a rise in the dollar, of inflation, and many people from the center, faced with this fear and uncertainty, began to look at Kast,” says the analyst. One symptom: on Monday, after the electoral results, the Santiago Stock Exchange rebounded strongly.
“Kast is an ultra-conservative guy, the representative of a right that we think had died 30 years ago, hyper-conservative, religious, opposed to abortion. It is a right that represents some values that were classics of Chilean society three generations ago but that do not represent to current values. ”However, for the analyst, fear of Boric and his alliance with the Communist Party, which causes a lot of rejection in Chile, led several voters towards the ultra-rightist option.
Thus, Espinoza adds, a second round is being proposed that “would face two interpretations” of what the social outbreak and the constituent process meant.
“Boric is going to call for moderation to offer certainties but at the same time he will urge the continuity and deepening of the political reforms that emerged as a request for the social outbreak, including the ongoing constituent process”, while Kast will represent the opposite, he concludes Espinoza.
For López, “the winner will come from those who manage to be closer to the center.” An elusive center, which vanished in these November elections.