Chileans await extreme polarization in presidential vote

Chileans await extreme polarization in presidential vote

Santiago // Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: – Two outside candidates from opposite sides of the political spectrum led in Chile’s presidential election on Sunday after a painful campaign that exposed deep social tensions in the region’s most economically advanced country.

Barely 1% of voting booths reported the results, mostly from Chilean embassies abroad, former student protest leader Gabriel Borek had 35% of support compared to 24% for far-right MP Jose Antonio Caste.

If neither candidate obtains a 50% majority, the two leaders will compete in the run-off on December 19.

Pre-election polls indicate a large number of undecided voters, but consistently favored Borek and Kast in the field of seven candidates. It includes Chile’s 155-seat Chamber of Deputies and about half of the Senate.

Borek, 35, will become the youngest modern president of Chile. He was among several student activists who were elected to Congress in 2014 after leading protests for high-quality education. Running as head of a broad coalition that includes the Chilean Communist Party, if elected, he says he will raise taxes on the “ultra-rich” to expand social services and boost environmental protection.

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He also pledged to abolish the country’s private pension system – a hallmark of the free-market reforms imposed by General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in the 1980s.

Cast, 55, of the newly formed Republican Party, emerged from the far right after winning less than 8% of the vote in 2017 as an independent. But he has been rising steadily in the polls this time with divisive rhetoric emphasizing conservative family values ​​as well as attacking immigrants – many of them from Haiti and Venezuela – blaming the crime.

A fervent Catholic and father of nine, Caste has also targeted outgoing President Sebastian Pinera for allegedly betraying Pinochet’s economic legacy, which his brother helped implement as the dictator’s central bank chief.

Whoever wins will take control of a country in the grip of major change but unsure of its future course after decades of centrist reforms that have largely left Pinochet’s economic model intact.

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Turnout appeared heavy on Sunday, with many polling stations having to stay open after 6 p.m. to accommodate late voters still in line.

“There are more people than other times because we are all tired of this,” said 55-year-old Marie Arias, who waited in a long line to vote.

Teresa Mardones, 60, said she usually votes for the left, “but Chile’s uncertainty forced me to vote for Caste.”

But Francisco Venegas, 50, said he went for Borek because “we have to change everything and take a risk.”

Pinera’s decision to raise subway fares in 2019 sparked months of mass protests that quickly turned into a nationwide clamor for accessible public services and exposed the crumbling underpinnings of Chile’s “economic miracle.”

severely weakened by the turmoil, Pinera reluctantly agreed to hold a referendum on rewriting the Pinochet-era constitution. In May, the assembly tasked with crafting the new Magna Carta was elected, and it is expected to conclude sometime next year.

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Meanwhile, in a fresh indication of the tensions Pinera will leave behind, the billionaire president has been impeached in the House before evading impeachment by the Senate over a foreign business deal in which a decade ago his family sold their stake in a mining venture while he was serving his first two terms. not consecutive.

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Inform Goodman from Miami

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