Where is Chile going?

Chile entered into a determined dynamic when the largest mobilizations began since the return of democracy two years ago. Mobilizations that won the convocation of a Constituent Convention, with the election of parliamentarians, with a majority of independent elected representatives, with the Frente Amplio -organization of the new left- in the first place.

The new Constitution, with gender parity and with direct representation of the Mapuches -who elected the president of the Constituent Assembly, Elisa Loncón-, was already beginning to be elaborated, always in a progressive dynamic. When the dynamics of the presidential election began, the constituent process was half in the shadows and a dispute was projected that had a contradictory result with the tendencies of the new constitution.

After fluctuations at the polls, the result of the first round put the far-right candidate, José Antonio Kast, in first place, with a difference of around 2% compared to Gabriel Boric, of the Broad Front. The most important news was the vote of a candidate who seemed bizarre, Franco Parisi, who campaigned from Alabama, in the United States, because he cannot return to Chile due to a millionaire pension fine he owes to his ex-wife. He came in third place, beating the president of the Socialist Party and Christian Democracy – coalition that had ruled the country since the return to democracy – and the candidate of the president of disrepute Sebastián Piñera.

The projection for the second round favors, in a first evaluation, Kast, who could count on the votes of Parisi and Sebastián Sichel, Piñera’s candidate, who add up to 25% of the votes. While Boric must have the votes of the candidates of the Christian Democracy-Socialist Party, Yasna Provoste and the Progressive Party, Marco Enriquéz-Ominami, whose combined votes are around 20%. Should these transfers occur, Kast would expand his lead to around 7%.

What are the new factors that changed the polls and projected the favoritism of the far-right candidate in the second round?

First of all, there is the presence in Chile of the same phenomenon that exists in other Latin American countries – Brazil and Argentina, among others – with the upward projection of far-right candidates. In Chile, Kast explored issues such as the fight against corruption and the old politics – he distanced himself from Piñera, also so as not to suffer the wear and tear of the current president – against the State and in favor of privatization, the fight against violence, the fight against immigration – a sensitive issue in the north of the country – and a neoliberal economic program, vindicating both Pinochet and Bolsonaro, while in other countries, even the right wing tried to distance itself from the Brazilian president.

The Broad Front candidate, Gabriel Boric, defends a classic program of the new left: anti-neoliberal in the economy, defender of policies to preserve the environment, policies of women’s movements, political decentralization, favoring the most backward from the country.

Parisi defends a neoliberal, antipolitical and antistate economic program, with a liberal appearance, in defense of the “people”, as he expressed it on behalf of the party he created: the People’s Party. He ended up capitalizing on the vote of young people, who used to abstain, in the first round.

Chile approved a few years ago the end of compulsory voting, which caused a radical drop in electoral participation. A large part of the young people did not even register on the electoral roll. Presidents, like Michelle Bachelet herself, were elected with less than 30% of the vote. More than half of the Chileans began to abstain.

Even with the mobilizations of the last two years, electoral participation in these elections remained low: 47.%, that is, with abstention of more than 50%. This universe is still the variable that can eventually change the outcome from the first to the second round.

In any case, the political landscape in Chile has changed. The extreme right shows great strength. The traditional parties –Partido Socialista and Democracia Cristiana– practically disappear as important forces, although they maintain a certain seat in the new Parliament. The new left, the Broad Front, occupies the center of the alternatives of progressivism.

An eventual Kast victory will leave Chile in a situation of isolation, counting on the Brazilian government, in the last year of Bolsonaro’s mandate. If Lula is elected, the alliance of the three largest countries in Latin America – Brazil, Argentina and Mexico – will contribute decisively to consolidate this isolation.

The second round, on December 19, will be highly contested and the results will depend on the transfer of votes from the other two candidates to Kast, maintaining the current universe of voters. Or that the left manages to decipher the abstentionists and mobilize a significant part of them, redistributing the cards of the game and getting the vote in their favor. Young people, who were fundamental protagonists in the mobilizations of the last two years, can be decisive for this turn.

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