By Satyaki Chakraborty
Leftist and former student leader Gabriel Boric won on Sunday the Presidential elections by getting 55.8 per cent of the votes as against 44.1 per cent received by the extreme right candidate Anronio Kast, thereby giving a major boost to the left and progressive forces in Latin America.
The December 19 run off for the presidency was the most polarized presidential election in Chile since the return of the democracy in 1990 after the continuance of the dictatorial regime of Pinochet since 1973. The win of the left coalition candidate Gabriel Boric at the age of 35, has led to a new level of hopes and aspirations in this Andrean nation with 19 million population. Boric is the youngest president till now in Chile’s history.
In fact the far right presidential candidate Kast was the front runner in the first round of elections on November 21, this year but as per the electoral rules, the run off was held where the candidate could win with a simple majority. The Left coalition campaigned extensively during the period on the basis of the new charter of the Left and this helped in bringing back to the Left fold a large number of centrists and those who did not participate in the first round of voting.
The electoral battle for the run off was on the basis of two completely different programmes. While Boric called for a new development strategy based on pro-poor programmes and imposing curbs on the corporates and the rich, Kast went all out for opening up the economy to the big business. Kast is called the Bolsonaro of Chile and he is an admirer of the former United States president Donald Trump. the US multinationals based in Chile supported Kast the whole hog but this time, the efforts of both big media and MNCs got defeated at the combined unity of the trade unions, farmers and the lower middle class.
The defeated candidate Kast has already congratulated for his victory and it seems that the transition will be smooth. The newly elected president Boric said “I want to begin this historical moment which is tremendously exciting, and that the eyes of Chile and the world are watching, thanking all Chileans who went to vote, honoring their commitment to democracy.” “It doesn’t matter if you did it for me or my opponent; the important thing is that you did it, you were present, you showed your commitment to this country that belongs to each of you.”, he said. Outgoing Chilean President Sebastian Pinera congratulated Boric earlier in the evening, saying, “Chileans have given an example of democracy, you were part of that, I congratulate you.”
Chile, a country of roughly 19.3 million that stretches down South America’s Pacific coast, is the world’s top copper-producing country. It also has the largest known reserves of lithium — a lightweight metal that is an essential component to manufacturing batteries for electric vehicles. The American corporates have always been influential in the Chilean politics and this continued even after the country reverted to democracy in 1990 after the dictatorial rule of Pincohet. Kast is a pro-Donald Trump politician and he has openly supported more US role in the economy of Chile. He has been harping on the issue of security and immigration and is a big supporter of Pinochet’s programmes.
Boric, on the other hand, has said he wants the Chilean state to do more to provide and guarantee social rights. He has pledged, if elected, to scrap the country’s private pension system, raise taxes on the “super-rich” and strengthen the protection of indigenous people and the environment. He is running as the head of a broad alliance that includes Chile’s Communist Party. Boric is getting full support from the strong leftist trade unions and the farmers organisations. He is popular among the students and teachers.
2021 has been a grand year for the Leftist parties. Out of the five presidential elections, the Left has won in four — Peru, Nicaragua, Honduras and Chile while the Right has won in Ecuador. In 2022, presidential elections will be held in Columbia in May 2022 and in Brazil in October 2022. In both these nations, opinion polls so far give big lead to the leftist presidential candidates. (IPA Service)