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Elections in Chile: official voting hours have ended but there are still long lines throughout the country


A woman casts her vote during the presidential and parliamentary elections in Santiago, Chile, on November 21, 2021. (REUTERS)

Chile voted this Sunday in the most uncertain presidential elections in 31 years of democracy. On a particularly hot southern spring day – with more than 30 degrees Celsius – long lines were seen at voting centers in Santiago and cities in the north and south of Chile, where voting has been voluntary since 2012 and there is usually low electoral participation, especially among the young.

Representatives of the two most antagonistic political poles arrive as favorites: the deputy of the Left Broad Front Gabriel boric, the youngest applicant in history with 35 years; and the far-right lawyer Jose Antonio Kast, 55 and from the Republican Party.

The first results respond to the vote abroad. With 1.04% scrutinized, Gabriel Boric would obtain un 34.55%% and Kast a24.45%. If the trend continues, there would be a second round on December 19.

The two main favorites for the presidential elections in Chile, Gabriel Boric and José Antonio Kast,
The two main favorites for the presidential elections in Chile, Gabriel Boric and José Antonio Kast,

The elections are marked by two years of tough social protests, outgoing President Sebastián Piñera was the first public figure to go to vote at a school in Las Condes, an affluent neighborhood of Santiago. “Let’s give an example to the whole world of how democracy works in Chile,” asked Piñera when voting.

Several analysts consulted by the AFP consider that The elections this Sunday could close the old political cycle of the country, since the two favorites – and the majority of candidates – are strangers to the coalitions with traditional parties that have governed the last decades.

The four main rivals, the left-wing deputy Gabriel Boric, the far-right lawyer José Antonio Kast, the Christian Democratic senator Yasna Provoste and the right-wing lawyer Sebastián Sichel, were cautious, and asked Chileans to celebrate by voting in “this democratic party”, “inform themselves” and “avoid extremisms ”.

The polls will be open until 6 pm to vote for president, renew the entire Chamber of Deputies and half the Senate, as well as regional councilors.

50% undecided, voluntary vote and sanitary restrictions due to the pandemic, make up the most uncertain scenario since the return to democracy after the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).

Boric voted in the city where he was born, Punta Arenas, on the shores of the Strait of Magellan, more than 3,000 km south of Santiago; the candidate Provoste, did it in Vallenar, her hometown 660 km north of the capital; and Kast in Paine, a country area near Santiago.

Faces of new parties

Former student leader and defender of the ongoing constituent process, Boric is the youngest candidate to have run for the Presidency of Chile. But neither he, nor Kast, nor most of the seven rivals are part of the political coalitions that have taken turns in power since the return to democracy in 1990.

Boric voted in Punta Arenas (Reuters)
Boric voted in Punta Arenas (Reuters)

“It can be argued that they are the last elections of the old cycle, since they can end with a different result than the (politicians) that have existed,” said Raúl Elgueta, a political scientist from the University of Santiago.

Although the two favorites have ideologically opposite programs, no candidate could avoid in his campaign promising well-being and ensuring social rights, because it is the great transversal claim in Chile since the October 2019 revolt.

“We represent the process of change and transformation that is coming, (but) with certainty, with the gradualness that is necessary,” said Boric when voting in Punta Arenas, where he claimed a change to the country’s neoliberal development model.

Kast voted in Santiago (Reuters)
Kast voted in Santiago (Reuters)

For his part, Kast tries to maintain the neoliberal model inherited from the Pinochet dictatorship and promises to impose “order, security and freedom”, after two years of social upheaval. “The main thing (today is that) many people can attend to vote and that each one can speak freely” and “vote informed,” said Kast, who maintains that Boric and his alliance with the Communist Party will bring “chaos” to Chile .

Provoste, Michelle Bachelet’s former minister, is the only member of the Concertación, the coalition of center-left parties that ruled for 20 years in a row after the end of the dictatorship. “It is necessary to recover the governability and lost peace,” he said when voting.

Chilean presidential candidates on television ahead of the national elections, 2021. Esteban Felix / Pool via REUTERS / File Photo
Chilean presidential candidates on television ahead of the national elections, 2021. Esteban Felix / Pool via REUTERS / File Photo

Sichel, without political affiliation but with a previous step by the Christian Democrats, is the representative of the official alliance, and pointed out after voting that “the presidents caudillos who believe that they will govern alone are not useful,” trusting that he will make a great election this Sunday.

Also competing are the far-left professor Eduardo Artes, the progressive filmmaker and politician Marco Enriquez-Ominami and the economist of the so-called People’s Party, Franco Parisi, who lives in the United States and did not set foot in the country during the campaign due to problems with justice. Chilean.

KEEP READING:

Elections in Chile: long lines and long delays in the main urban centers
Elections in Chile: Boric asked that “hope beat fear” and Kast called to “vote freely”
Chile: 7 candidates seek La Moneda in the election that ends 30 years of hegemony of two coalitions
José Antonio Kast, the most conservative letter in the race to La Moneda
Gabriel Boric, the millennial candidate of the Chilean left
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