The recent first round election in Chile has left the country with a stark choice – a far-right candidate who admires the legacy of Pinochet or a left-wing reformer pledging to tackle social inequality. Nearly 50 years after Allende – can the left really win power in Chile?

By Melany Cruz, Tribune

The first round of the Chilean Presidential elections on 21 November was surprising. In short, the traditional centre-left coalition, Nuevo Pacto Social, and the traditional right-wing coalition of incumbent president Sebastian Piñera, Chile Podemos, did not make it to the second round of the vote. Instead, it was the left coalition, Apruebo Dignidad, and the far-right coalition, Frente Social Cristiano, which passed to the second round, for which the vote will take place on December 19.

In the Chilean electoral system, to be elected President, a candidate needs to reach 50%+ of the votes. Due the plurality of political parties and the several candidates running for the position, none of them can get enough votes to win in the first round, leading commonly to a second round between the two top candidates—in this case, between far-right candidate Jose Antonio Kast and progressive 35-year old MP Gabriel Boric.

Gabriel Boric and Jose Antonio Kast
Credit: fotografoencampana

The results may not come as a shock to many who are aware of the larger context of political polarisation in the world, especially with the rise of far-right politics in Europe. However, there are important factors to observe in Chile, especially after the social uprising of 2019. How did the far-right candidate, an open supporter of dictator Augusto Pinochet, become the leading majority (27.91%) in this first round? Gabriel Boric, who is also a former leader of the 2011 student movement, finished in second place (25.83%), despite polls placing him as the frontrunner in the months before the election.

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