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LATIN AMERICA | 25-11-2021 16:26

Leftist must overcome history to win Chile presidential run-off

As Chile gears up for the presidential run-off between candidates from opposite ends of the political spectrum, one thing is for certain: history isn’t on the side of leftist contender Gabriel Boric.

As Chile gears up for the presidential run-off between candidates from opposite ends of the political spectrum, one thing is for certain: history isn’t on the side of leftist contender Gabriel Boric.

That’s because no candidate has ever come back to win the nation’s top job in a runoff after finishing behind in the first round since the return to democracy in 1990. Boric got 25.8 percent in Sunday’s vote, trailing conservative rival José Antonio Kast with 27.9 percent. Polls show them neck-to-neck in the second round on December 19.

Given the tightness of the race, the 35-year-old former student protest leader is wasting no time in reaching out to supporters of other candidates including Franco Parisi, Yasna Provoste and Marco Enríquez-Ominami. To do that he needs to move to the political centre, toning down the more radical elements of his manifesto and potentially distancing himself from his allies in the Partido Communista.

Boric must now go face-to-face against Kast. A trained lawyer and deeply conservative father of nine, Kast’s support rests on his calls for a no-nonsense approach to crime and immigration, as well as lower taxes and a smaller role for the state. 

Among other candidates in the first round, Parisi, Provoste and Enríquez-Ominami obtained 12.8 percent, 11.6 percent and 7.6 percent of the vote, respectively, according to electoral body Servel.

To win some of those votes, local news reports have mentioned that Boric may include the centre-left economist Andrea Repetto in his campaign team. Repetto has a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is a professor at the Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez.

“Andrea Repetto is a tremendous economist and we will have news about this soon,” Boric said when questioned by journalists about the report. “We are open to incorporating the best ideas from other candidates’ programmes.”

Since Chile’s return to democracy three decades ago, most presidential elections have gone to a runoff, which occurs when no contender gets at least 50 percent of the first-round vote. Prior to the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, it was up to the nation’s Congress to ratify the winner in those cases. 

by Matthew Malinowski, Bloomberg

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