Left-wing millennial wins elections as Chile’s next president | World news


By PATRICIA LUNA and JOSHUA GOODMAN, Associated Press

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) – A left-wing millennial who rose to prominence in anti-government protests has been elected Chile’s president next Sunday after a deadly campaign against a free market brand compared to Donald Trump.

With nearly 99% of polling stations declaring, Gabriel Boric won 56% of the vote, against 44% for his opponent, lawmaker José Antonio Kast.

In a model of civility that broke with the campaign’s polarizing rhetoric, Kast immediately admitted defeat, tweeting a photo of himself on the phone with his opponent congratulating him on his “great triumph.” Meanwhile, outgoing President Sebastian Pinera – a conservative billionaire – held a video conference with Boric to offer his government’s full support during the three-month transition.

“I’m going to be the president of all Chileans,” Boric said during the brief television appearance with Pinera.

Political cartoons about world leaders

Political cartoons

Boric’s victory is expected to be felt across Latin America, where ideological divisions have grown amid the coronavirus pandemic, which reversed a decade of economic gains, revealed long-standing shortcomings in healthcare and increased inequalities.

At 35, Boric will become Chile’s youngest modern president when he takes office in March and only the second millennium to rule in Latin America, after Nayib Bukele of El Salvador.

He was one of several activists elected to Congress in 2014 after leading protests for better education. On the stump, he swore to “bury” the neoliberal economic model left by the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet of 1973-1990 and to increase the taxes of the “super rich” to extend social services, fight against inequalities and strengthen environmental protection.

Kast, who has always defended Chile’s former military dictatorship, edged Boric by two points in the first round of voting last month but failed to secure a majority of the vote. This set up a head-to-head against Boric.

Boric was able to reverse the difference by a larger margin than predicted pre-election opinion polls by expanding beyond his base in the capital, Santiago, and drawing voters in rural areas who do not align themselves. not on the side of political extremes. For example, in the northern region of Antofagasta, where he finished third in the first round, he beat Kast by almost 20 points.

An additional 1.2 million Chileans voted on Sunday from the first round, bringing the turnout to 55%, the highest since voting ceased to be compulsory in 2012.

Kast, 55, a devout Roman Catholic and father of nine, emerged from the far right after winning less than 8% of the vote in 2017. An admirer of Brazilian far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, he has steadily advanced in the ranks. polls this month. time with a divisive discourse emphasizing conservative family values ​​and playing on Chilean fears that increased migration – from Haiti and Venezuela – will drive crime.

As a lawmaker, he’s used to attacking Chile’s LGBTQ community and advocating for more restrictive abortion laws. He also accused outgoing President Sebastian Pinera, a conservative colleague, of betraying the economic legacy of General Augusto Pinochet, the country’s former military leader. Kast’s brother, Miguel, was one of Pinochet’s best advisers.

“I am very relieved,” said Mónica Salinero, a teacher who joined in the celebration of Boric’s victory at Plaza Italia in Santiago, the site of protests in 2019.

In recent days, the two candidates have tried to turn towards the center.

“I am not an extremist. … I don’t feel quite right, ”Kast proclaimed in the home stretch even as he was chased by revelations that his German-born father had been a full member of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party. .

Boric, who is backed by a coalition of left parties that includes the Chilean Communist Party, has brought in more centrist advisers to his team and has promised any changes will be gradual and fiscally responsible.

“People on both sides vote out of fear,” said Robert Funk, a political scientist at the University of Chile, before the vote count. Neither side is particularly excited about his candidate, but they vote for fear that if Kast wins there will be an authoritarian regression or because they fear Boric is too young, inexperienced and aligned with the Communists. “

Boric’s victory will likely be tempered by a divided congress.

Additionally, political rules may soon change as a newly elected convention rewrites the country’s constitution during Pinochet’s day. The convention – the most powerful elected institution in the country – could in theory call new presidential elections when it completes its work next year and if the new charter is ratified in a plebiscite.

Associated Press writer Patricia Luna reported in Santiago and AP writer Joshua Goodman reported in Miami.

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