What is Chile at stake in the presidential elections on Sunday?  - LPD

Boric and closet. Kast and Boric. These are the surnames that are repeated in the last days in each report on the elections in Chile of this Sunday. The two candidates appear more likely to win and go to a second round, something that is taken for granted.

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Both represent two opposite sides of the Chilean politics, which already shows a gap in the electorate about what destination they want to take the country to. On the left side is Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old deputy who broke into politics in 2011 when he was part of the group of university students that led the student protests. He is, in fact, the youngest candidate in this election and if he wins, he would become the youngest president in Chile.

This Sunday, 15 million Chileans are entitled to elect the new president who will replace Sebastián Piñera in office. The polls suggest that there will be a second round in which two opposite poles of politics would face each other: the leftist candidate Gabriel Boric and the ultra-conservative José Antonio Kast, who surprisingly added adherents since the end of September. However, nothing is said yet as absenteeism and the high percentage of undecided could tip the balance.

And on the side of the extreme right is Jose Antonio Kast, the real surprise of this campaign and that has penetrated an electorate that wants to vindicate order and security in a country that has been shaken since the social outbreak of 2019.

However, there is still no certainty that indeed Boric and closet be the final names and the climate of uncertainty is already taking over the last days of the campaign. What could prevent this from being the duo that will face next December for the presidency?

There are several factors, but there are two that are key: absenteeism and indecision.

The vote is voluntary in Chile since 2012 and the low electoral participation is one of the characteristics that has marked the recent elections. In fact, in the 2017 elections – when he was elected Sebastian Piñera for the second time- there was a 51% abstention, a scenario that was repeated in the 2020 plebiscite that approved the change to the Constitution.

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As in any voluntary election, those who are going to vote are usually the most politically mobilized and in this case they are precisely those who support so much Boric What closet.

However, the undecided group is important (around 23%, according to the latest survey by Plaza Pública Cadem) and could make the figures vary: so much that Boric O closet get a higher percentage than expected (which so far is between 25% and 19% support, depending on the type of poll, and in some cases with Kast at the head), or that, given the adjusted result, they begin to fight for a vote. I vote for the ballotage the other two candidates who still have options: Yasna Provoste, of the Christian Democracy and that represents the center-left (and that comes from the old Concertación since she was minister of Lagos and Bachelet), or Sebastian Sichel, an independent who now represents the center-right and is the official candidate.

So, could there be surprises this Sunday?

“I believe that the last word has not yet been given on who will accompany Boric in the second round. Let’s remember that voting in Chile is voluntary, so it depends on who votes and how many people vote. Then I would leave it a little more open ”, explains to El Comercio the doctor in Political Sciences Julieta Suárez-Cao, professor at the Catholic University of Chile and a member of the Network of Political Scientists.

closet he had a poor performance in the last debate and that may affect some voters who had run towards him strategically “he adds.

Certainly, closet has received an important cushion of votes that, naturally, would have supported Sichel, but due to the poor performance of Piñera’s candidate at the beginning of the campaign, as well as complaints that appeared against him, they caused them to look towards the ultra-conservative.

closet it has a small but constant electorate that has increased in this campaign period. And that happened in part because Sichel, the other right-wing candidate, had a very poor performance in some debates and in a way ‘broke down’, but that does not necessarily translate into an adherence to Kast, but rather a negative identification with Sichel, and that has also changed in this last week ”, points out Estefanía Andahur, also from the Network of Politologists of Chile.

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The survey factor

Another element to consider, and which is not minor, is the discredit that pollsters have due to wrong forecasts in previous electoral campaigns. For this reason, many experts point out that the figures from the surveys must be taken with a grain of salt.

As in Peru, polls cannot be publicly released days before the elections. In the case of Chile, the ‘blackout’ lasts two weeks, but that does not mean that the figures are leaked.

However, as the vote is voluntary, and with the high number of undecided, it becomes more complex to determine preferences.

Gabriel Boric during the closing of his campaign this Thursday.  The 35-year-old left-wing deputy could win the elections, but he has yet to make it through the second round to be held in December.  REUTERS / Rodrigo Garrido
Gabriel Boric during the closing of his campaign this Thursday. The 35-year-old left-wing deputy could win the elections, but he has yet to make it through the second round to be held in December. REUTERS / Rodrigo Garrido

“In the polls, people are asked if they are going to vote, but there is an ‘over-response’ from people who say they will. There are many people who answer that it will, but ultimately it does not, so we do not have a good way of discerning this and there are important methodological problems ”, explains to this newspaper the doctor in Political Sciences Isabel Castillo, researcher at the School of Government of the Catholic University and the COES (Center for the Study of Conflict and Social Cohesion).

“In general, the polls report on likely voters, but that is not very consistent with reality. On Chile, half of the people do not vote and those who do are not distributed equally throughout the population. People with higher incomes and older people tend to vote, although in this election young people are more motivated and it may be, that in a greater proportion, they support Boric more “he adds.

Chilean presidential candidate José Antonio Kast, of the Republican Party, during a rally in Valdivia.  (JAVIER TORRES / AFP).
Chilean presidential candidate José Antonio Kast, of the Republican Party, during a rally in Valdivia. (JAVIER TORRES / AFP).

“For last year’s plebiscite (on the new Constitution), where the answers were only Yes and No, the polls did say that the ‘Approve’ would win, but the percentages were very far away; and for this year’s primaries, the candidates who were scoring in the polls were others. So either the survey methodology is not working or a lot of people decide at the last minute. It is probably a combination of both ”, Castillo comments.

For his part, Andahur points out: “What happens is that the surveys have generated a perception of reality and preferences in an equivocal and polarized way. In the last weeks closet rose in the polls, beating Sichel and even Boric, which is the strongest candidate, but all the polls carried out this year were completely wrong ”.

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