Chile Polarized By Presidential Elections

By Linnette Cruz, 11th Grade

On Sunday, November 21st, Chilean citizens headed straight to the polls to vote in Chile’s presidential, parliamentary, and regional elections. Since Chile operates using the two-round (or runoff) system and no candidate received an absolute majority of the vote, the second round of ballot casting will be held on December 19th. This election is one of the most divisive in recent memory, and it follows widespread anti-government rallies. There are seven presidential candidates in total, but the fate of Chile now rests on the second round of voting as front-runners far-right conservative José Antonio Kast and left-wing and former activist Gabriel Boric campaign to see who manages to secure the obligatory 50% of the majority vote to win the 2021 elections. With that said, Chilean voters are going to be offered a very bleak choice in who they believe should govern the country for the next four years. 

The right-wing party is currently dominated by Kast, a 55-year-old former congressman known for his undying support towards the late dictator Augusto Pinochet. Kast, who is also the son of a German officer who served under Adolf Hitler’s army during World War II, is noted for his anti-feminism, anti-equal marriage, and anti-social inclusion stances. Many compare his program and political ideologies to those of former President of the United States Donald Trump, who was impeached twice and served only one term before being succeeded by President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential elections. 

On the other side of things, former student activist and leftist candidate Gabriel Boric, if elected, will become the youngest president in Chilean history at the age of 35. He claims to be fighting “for democracy, for inclusion, for justice”. Boric also aspires to introduce a progressive tax and police reform, as well as establish a more environmentally friendly economy for Chile. The progressionist and egalitarian future that Boric proposes for Chile excites many young voters for the shift in principles that they hope he will bring. 

November 21st polls put Kast on 26.5% of the vote, leading a narrow victory ahead of Boric who only managed to gain 25% of the vote. Despite the fact that pollsters warn that the current social turmoil in Chile has made it extremely difficult to anticipate voter behavior at the polls, the center-right ruling party’s and conventional center-left candidates look to be in a distant fourth and third place until Dec. 19. 

While Chile is at a crossroads, it is no wonder that this election is getting passed down to runoffs since the citizens of Chile only have the option to vote for one of the following: a very anti-gay and conservative Nazi descendent or an extremely liberal and supportive activist for trans rights and sexual freedom millennial. Clearly, this is a tough choice, and voters are not given the option of an easy middle who has combined ideas from both sides of the spectrum. 

The Chilean public as a whole is being tremendously affected by this polarized election, but the group who is being the most impacted are members of the LGBTQ+ community–more specifically, transsexual people. According to swissinfo.ch, as of April 2021, 89.3% of Chileans who are part of the LGBTQ+ community “claimed to have been a victim of discrimination.” Relatively, the percentage of transsexual individuals who have experienced discrimination in some way, shape, or form is an unfortunate 94.1%, most of their aggressors being part of their own family or even known friends. As a result, many feel that they cannot express their sexual orientation or gender identity with pride without fearing that they may be discriminated against or hurt (SWI, 2021). 

As they foresee the elections on Dec. 19, via opinion surveys, Kast looked to be gaining the most points during polling. While some might deem Kast as a fascist with strong authoritarianism ideals, others consider him to be Chile’s only hope for a sense of stability and security, due to Kast’s plan to protect private property, the free-market economy, and his vow to “actively seek out illegal migrants”, taking point from the US’s own Immigration and Customs Enforcement–also known as ICE. 

The vast majority of Chileans favor the self-regulated supply and demand economic system that has kept the country afloat and in economic prosperity and stability. However, many Chileans have become more conscientious of the deep-rooted inequalities that have prevailed in their country for years. From the mounds of people living out their days just above the poverty line and poor public health to low-quality education, Chileans are disgruntled with all of the ongoing political violence. The younger generation of voters is waiting with anticipation for the second round of voting as they take to the streets to protest against the social and economic injustices evermore present in Chile. 

Overall, it is evident that Chileans will have an arduous time deciding who they should vote for in the incoming run-offs. Between maintaining the free-market and solving many of the inequalities prevalent in Chile, voters claim to be indifferent about who wins because every election, a new president rises to power, but the problems the country faces stay the same. In my opinion, Chile is faced with a difficult choice because if Kast is elected, Chile would be going back 30 years into the past when dictator Augusto Pinochet attempted to exterminate leftism for the sake of the free market. Voting starts at 8 a.m. sharp on Dec. 19, where millions of Chileans will go to the polls and determine the future of Chile, and along with it, its political and economic stability. With stakes being at their all-time high, this will be an interesting election without a shadow of a doubt.

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