By Satyaki Chakraborty
Chilean voters are witnessing the most intensive campaigning by both the Far Right Jose Antonio Kast and the Leftist Gabriel Boric in the run off to the Presidential elections scheduled on December 19. In the first round on November 21, Kast got 28 per cent votes as against Boric’s 25 per cent defying the opinion trends but in the latest media polls, reports have given the Leftist candidate again a slender lead making the contest most exciting.
The Chilean society is now sharply divided and the two candidates represent the two extreme positions. While Kast is a hardcore far right known as the Bolsonaro of Chile, Boric is a hard leftist who has promised to change the Chilean economy to benefit the poor and the workers. Chilean economy is better compared to many other Latin American nations but the inequality and the corruption of the rich have angered even the Chilean middle classes. Political observers say that right now, in Chile, the people are evenly divided right or left.
Millions of people in Chile took part in anti-inequality demonstrations in late 2019 and 2020 to demand improvements to their quality of life and to vent their anger at the legacy of Pinochet-era privatized social services. That was the game changer which helped in boosting the left wing activists who worked for collaboration of the various left leaning groups to challenge the far right. The protests paved the way for redrafting the country’s constitution. That was a big victory of the Chilean left in which the Chilean Communist Party played a major role.
35 year old Gabriel Boric came into prominence in 2011 as a protest leader and since then he has continued his pro-people policies and fought hard in the battle for changing the constitution. According to the poll analysts, Boric has slight lead as of now against Kast but the scenario is unpredictable till the last moment. The possibility of low voter turnout of only 47.3 per cent in the first round has left a huge undecided voters whose decision at the last moment will be crucial in deciding the winner. But at the same time, they mention that there is big anti-incumbency against the present president Sebastian Pinera and this will naturally affect Kast who is further right to him.
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.
Latin American observers say that the Chilean election outcome is very crucial for the Latin American Left which has got a boost with the Left victory in Honduras in November 28 Presidential elections. Similarly, Columbia is also seeing change as the far right president may have to go in May 2022 elections if the present opinion trends favouring Leftwing candidate, is any indication. Brazil is also going for Presidential elections next year and former leftwing president Lula is a front runner in opinion polls. All concerned Latin Americans are presently looking for the outcome of the presidential run off on Sunday. (IPA Service)