Political shake-up on the horizon as Chile to elect new president

Santiago, Chile – Chileans will head to the polls this weekend to elect their subsequent president, legislators and regional council members in a local weather of uncertainty following two years of political flux.

“This is a very important election,” mentioned Daniela Campos Letelier, a member of the Red de Politologas community of ladies political scientists. “It is quite complex,” she informed Al Jazeera. “This election will define various forces in the political system.”

Seven presidential candidates will likely be on the poll in Sunday’s election, however latest polls all indicated two clear frontrunners: on the left and far-right.

Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old congressman and former scholar motion chief, represents the left-wing Apruebo Dignidad coalition, whereas Jose Antonio Kast, a 55-year-old lawyer and former congressman, is the far-right candidate of the Christian Social Front coalition.

Trailing Boric and Kast by a considerable margin are Sebastian Sichel, a former official in outgoing President Sebastian Pinera‘s administration from the centre-right ruling alliance, and Yasna Provoste, a senator representing centre-left events.

If, as is anticipated, no presidential candidate obtains an outright majority on Sunday, the highest two contenders will face one another in a December 19 run-off election. The president-elect will take workplace on March 11, 2022 for a four-year time period, and consecutive phrases are usually not permitted.

Voters may even elect all 155 members of the decrease home of Congress to four-year phrases, 27 of 50 senators, and regional council representatives.

Political local weather

The election takes place in an altered political panorama in Chile following an explosion of social unrest in October 2019 that noticed sustained mass protests for structural change.

For months previous to the coronavirus pandemic, and periodically extra lately, demonstrators referred to as for overhauls of the pension and well being methods and a brand new structure, amongst a myriad of different calls for. Human rights teams documented hundreds of abuses by police and army forces towards protesters, together with extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual assault, and greater than 400 eye accidents principally brought on by police buckshot projectiles and tear fuel canisters.

As a results of these demonstrations, Chileans earlier this 12 months elected an all-citizen conference with gender parity and Indigenous representatives to draft a brand new structure to exchange the nation’s dictatorship-era doc. Independent and leftist candidates gained floor within the May vote for mayors, native councils, governors, and constitutional conference representatives.

Sunday’s vote additionally comes on the heels of impeachment proceedings towards Pinera, whose presidential time period ends in March, over a controversial mining deal. He was impeached final week by the decrease home of Congress, however the Senate voted on Tuesday towards the movement.

Political scientist Beatriz Vega, additionally a member of Red de Politologas, cautioned towards assuming a runoff between frontrunners Boric and Kast is essentially a achieved deal. Polls forward of another latest votes have been manner off the mark, she famous.

“There are many people who decide their vote in the last week,” Vega informed Al Jazeera. “It is difficult to predict what will happen.”

The frontrunners

Candidates wrapped up their campaigns on Thursday night time in several elements of the nation. Virtual and smaller occasions have been extra frequent than mass rallies in the course of the two-month marketing campaign interval on account of pandemic restrictions and precautions.

At a livestreamed closing occasion in Valparaiso, Boric highlighted a number of the keystones of his social democratic agenda, together with a extra equal and inclusive financial improvement mannequin, progressive social insurance policies, and local weather change mitigation.

In one of many wealthier districts of Greater Santiago, Kast wrapped up his marketing campaign with a rally the place he reaffirmed his vow to deal with medication and violence together with different cornerstones of his marketing campaign. Kast’s robust stance on crime has huge enchantment.

He has hardline positions towards immigration, LGBTQ rights, and reproductive rights, and a few of his different views have generated substantial alarm. He has advocated for persecution of the left and for government energy to pre-emptively detain “agitators” in unknown areas if wanted to keep away from social unrest sooner or later.

Recently, Kast has overtly defended the 1973-1990 army dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and minimised its victims. Tens of hundreds of individuals have been imprisoned beneath Pinochet, greater than 3,000 have been executed or forcibly disappeared, and there was widespread use of torture.

Some of far-right Chilean presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast’s views have generated important alarm [Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]

‘People want change’

“I was a political prisoner back then,” Luis Roja informed Al Jazeera at a small protest on Thursday night time in downtown Santiago, the place individuals have been calling for the liberty of demonstrators jailed throughout crackdowns on the mass protests that started in October 2019.

Now 65, Roja was actively concerned in Catholic faith-based human rights activism within the 1980s alongside “worker priest” Mariano Puga. In 1985, Roja and others have been arrested throughout a pilgrimage to mark the anniversary of the September 11, 1973 coup.

The group was planning to throw purple flowers into the river that runs by way of the capital to honour dissidents who have been executed and disappeared, he mentioned. Roja was launched a number of days later and went into hiding.

“We slept in our clothes and with our boots on. We had a ladder over to the house next door,” he mentioned when requested how he feels when he hears Kast defending the army dictatorship.

“I have always been in the streets,” mentioned Roja, whereas Carabineros police and a water cannon truck moved in on the rally. He has been arrested twice at protests previously two years, however mentioned his personal historical past compels him to proceed talking out for protesters extra lately jailed, injured or killed.

One of the primary slogans in October 2019 was that the protests weren’t in regards to the 30 pesos improve in metro fares that sparked day-one scholar actions, however as a substitute in regards to the previous 30 years, famous Campos Letelier.

Since Chile’s return to democracy in 1990, the presidency has alternated between the political forces represented by Sichel and Provoste, neither of whom is a number one contender in Sunday’s vote.

“There is a rejection and at the same time a warning,” mentioned Campos Letelier. “People want real political change.”

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