Elections in Chile 2021: The four weeks that gave victory to Gabriel Boric | International


The president-elect of Chile, the leftist Gabriel Boric, who won the elections last Sunday, went from a 25% support in the first round to 55% in the second, with a million votes more than José Antonio Kast, his rival of the extreme right. His triumph was the result of an unusual pragmatism that broke all expectations. And not only because he managed to reverse the second place he obtained on November 21, something that had never happened in Chile. In the four weeks between the two calls and during which Boric managed to turn the vote around to obtain victory in the presidential elections, a broad turn in the political narrative was crucial.

Boric went from the Approve Dignity candidate who promised to change everything to another much more moderate; He changed his informal clothes for a shirt with a jacket, and stopped talking to the “companions” to address the “Chileans”. Boric was convincing in warning, especially to women and the very young, that a victory for his ultra-conservative opponent would jeopardize acquired rights. It was a success: the left swept among those under 30 and won comfortably among those under 50. It also managed to get 55% of Chileans out of their homes, the highest percentage since the introduction of voluntary voting in 2012.

It was essential to join the campaign of Izkia Siches, a 35-year-old doctor – the same age as Boric -, leader of the Medical College union, who resigned four days after the left was two points below Kast in the first round (25%, compared to 27% for the leader of the Republican Party). Pamela Figueroa, an academic at the University of Santiago, says that “Siches’s arrival was strategic.” “It incorporates a woman who is a leader and comes from the social world, and that makes her broaden her base of support. Boric becomes more than his coalition ”, explains Figueroa.

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Siches and Boric have great political sympathy since their time as students at the University of Chile, a decade ago, when they were leaders of the mobilizations in the first government of Sebastián Piñera in 2011. The decision to include Siches in the team and the way communicating it marked a milestone in the campaign. The doctor, who has a daughter only a few months old, gave an emotional speech. “Important things require great challenges, great sacrifices. Today I feel that everything is very clear, that I look at my daughter’s face and I know what I must do, it is my duty, ”said the woman, who has played a leading role during the pandemic and faced the Piñera government.

Siches led a strong territorial campaign, especially outside the capital, Santiago, where Boric obtained fewer votes than in the big cities. He did it on a bus and with his young daughter, in an image that conveyed a powerful message to voters: citizens must make sacrifices for Boric to become president and, at the same time, prevent Kast’s triumph.

“Siches travels the country, when everyone told him to use social networks. She does it with her baby and drags crowds, ”says sociologist Eugenio Tironi. “With her, Boric reconquers the north [que en primera vuelta había sido para el candidato Franco Parisi, tercero en el escrutinio], get many votes back in the south [bastión de Kast] and sweeps Santiago, where he wins by 28 points. We come from a severe crisis of lack of participation, and the fact that young people have decided to participate is very positive news, ”says Tironi.

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Support for the left-wing candidate was especially strong among those young people who decided to vote to arrest Kast. And they were much more so among young women. According to a study by the Decide Chile platform, from the data company Unholster, if 53% of those under 30 years of age voted in the first round, in the second they were 63%. The figure also rose among women between 30 and 50 years old: their participation went from 58% to 67%.

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It was the potency of hope that Boric offered regarding the account of fear promoted by Kast. If the first round showed the importance of order and public safety for the population – which explained the good result at the Kast polls on November 21 – Boric made an effort in the second round to dispel the ghosts that haunt the left. On the election night of the November elections, Boric spoke, for the first time, of guaranteeing public safety and combating drug trafficking, two uncomfortable issues for the left, which does not like anything that sounds like repression. Days later, the candidate promised: “In our government we are not going to take anything from them.” It was a reference to the fears that his most controversial project arouses: the end of the private pension system, the AFPs, a capitalization model where future retirees accumulate their money month after month, and its replacement by another state one.

Towards the end of the campaign, the left delivered another decisive blow. Boric met for long hours with former socialist president Ricardo Lagos and got the explicit support of Michelle Bachelet, two-time president and current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Reconciliation

It was the return of the prodigal son: during the first round, I Approve Dignity, the coalition that Boric’s Broad Front formed together with the Communist Party, dynamited the 30-year legacy of the Concertación. The alliance of socialists and Christian Democrats that led the transition after the dictatorship was to blame, according to Boric and his followers, for all the evils that they now blamed on Chile, such as inequality and a minimal state model based on individual meritocracy. and the private sector.

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Reconciled with the founding fathers, Boric achieved moderate credentials and captured the vote of the center. Kast, on the other hand, was never able to break his relationship with the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. “The weight of history prevailed,” says Tironi. The triumph of Sunday was, according to this sociologist, that of “the old popular alliance of the middle classes with the working world. In Chile, the agreement between the left and the Christian-democratic world is important. Boric also managed to embody all the protests against neoliberalism, in addition to the feminist movement and then the outbreak [de octubre de 2018]”.

If in the campaign of the first round Boric climbed a tree to represent dreams and the desire for change, in the second round he showed himself as a presidential candidate, with evident changes even in his image, of greater seriousness. While his opponent Kast traveled to the United States in the middle of the campaign on a difficult to understand tour, Boric was deployed strongly on the ground and contacted people, which he had not previously done.

In those four weeks there were massive events on a daily basis and Boric began to emerge little by little as a celebrity, on a honeymoon with the electorate that is not in sight that it could end anytime soon.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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