Two years after an unprecedented social uprising against social inequality and in the process of drafting a new Constitution, Chileans are going to the polls this Sunday.
Fifteen million Chileans are called upon to nominate among seven candidates the successor of conservative president Sebastian Piñera, 71, who after two terms cannot stand for re-election and leaves power with a low popularity rating (12%).
Among the two favorites in the latest polls, credited with around a quarter of the voting intentions, are two candidates at the extremes of the political landscape and outside the right-wing and center-left coalitions that have ruled the country since the end of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).
On the one hand, Gabriel Boric, 35, former student leader and candidate for the left coalition “I approve of dignity“which includes the Communists in particular; on the other, José Antonio Kast, a 55-year-old lawyer and leader of the far-right Republican Party movement, which is riding on the unpopularity of the outgoing government.
The “last elections of the old cycle”
“Those that were never favorites now appear as favorites“, notes for AFP Raul Elgueta, political scientist at the University of Santiago.”These are the last elections of the old cycle and they could have a different outcome than what we had“so far, adds the academic.
Just behind the two favorites stand out two former ministers, the Christian Democrat (center-left) Yasna Provoste, 51, and the right-wing liberal, Sebastian Sichel, 44.
But the low reliability of the polls, their ban two weeks before the election, combined with a high proportion of undecided and an increase in Covid-19 cases, make any prediction on the qualified for the second round of December 19 difficult.
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Another unknown, the participation of young people, strongly mobilized in the street since the uprising at the end of 2019 for more social justice, but who regularly express their little interest in the candidates’ proposals.
According to a study by the National Youth Institute, 77% of young people will “probably” Where “certainly“vote on Sunday.
A social crisis that has lasted for two years
This particularly open ballot comes just two years after an unprecedented social crisis in the South American country to demand a fairer society after decades of ultra-liberal policies.
Gabriel Boric could benefit from the aspiration of many Chileans for more social equality, a reform of the private pension system and an increased presence of the State in the health and education sectors.
“It is extremely important (…) to build a state that guarantees rights, dignity and equality, the only way to have stability“, argued Friday the youngest presidential candidate in the history of Chile, during his last meeting.
Two models of society clash
But analysts have also observed a recent rise in the far right in the face of violent actions by the most radical protesters and fueled by growing voter concerns over illegal immigration and crime.
Especially since the pandemic has raised unemployment, widened the debt and that inflation is now around 6%, a novelty in the country.
“Two models of society clash. The one we represent, of freedom and justice, and a country we do not want and which would fall into chaos, hunger and violence“, declared José Antonio Kast, at the end of his campaign, alongside his wife and eight of his nine children.
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An uncertain future
Whatever “whoever is elected president will face a difficult period“, predicts Claudia Heiss, professor of political science at the University of Chile, stressing the risks of”social conflict“when the aid that made it possible to support the economy during the pandemic ends.
Another uncertainty, the Constitution which will emerge from the work started in June by the Constituent Assembly. The text, which could review the prerogatives of the president and parliament, will be submitted to Chileans by referendum during the coming term.
On Sunday, the Chileans will also renew their 155 deputies, 27 of the 43 senators and regional councils. The polling stations will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time (11 a.m. to 9 p.m. GMT). The results are expected in the evening.