Elections: The last presidential debate in Chile strips an uncomfortable candidate from the extreme right | International


The Chilean presidential candidates Gabriel Boric, José Antonio Kast, Yasna Provoste, Sebastián Sichel, Eduardo Artes and Marco Enríquez-Ominami.
The Chilean presidential candidates Gabriel Boric, José Antonio Kast, Yasna Provoste, Sebastián Sichel, Eduardo Artes and Marco Enríquez-Ominami.POOL (Reuters)

Six days before the presidential elections on Sunday 21, the candidates for the presidency of Chile have seen each other for the last time in the debate organized by the National Television Association of Chile, Anatel. In an exercise of two hours and 45 minutes, where key issues such as governance, public safety and the environment were addressed, citizens have been able to see the performance of six of the seven candidates who will be on the ballot, because the seventh – the populist Franco Parisi– has made a virtual campaign from the United States without stepping on Chile, taking advantage of a vacuum in Chilean legislation. With a rating of around 40 points, which is equivalent to some 3.1 million viewers, one of the main conclusions of the night was the poor performance of one of the favorite candidates according to the polls, the representative of the extreme right, José Antonio Kast.

He was neither confident nor smiling as in previous debates, where he did not have the pressure on his back for leading several of the latest polls. It was precisely this deployment of which he has nothing to lose that made him rise in the polls, until he tied and even surpassed his main opponent, Congressman Gabriel Boric, the candidate of the Left Broad Front in alliance with the Communist Party , another of the favorites to go to the second round on December 19. In the orbit of Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, but without their fanfare, the 55-year-old lawyer’s face changed when Boric, practically at the beginning of the debate, confronted him with different controversial initiatives contained in his program. The left-wing deputy did so with the document in hand and quoting the pages, which left Kast puzzled, tangled between the sheets of his own program. “Here there are a series of discriminatory acts that put at risk advances that have been substantive in terms of respect for the human rights of all. And here the important thing is that we need a president of all Chileans, who is capable of listening. Have you seen José Antonio Kast make a pact with someone who thinks differently? ”Boric said at another time.

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It was a debate with strong criticism between the different applicants to La Moneda, but it was Kast, who showed a tired face, the main target of the rest of the competitors. He began his interventions with a Cuban flag and expressing his support for the citizens that this Monday tried to mobilize on the island against the regime and one of the first questions that journalists asked him pointed to the comparison he made on Friday between the Pinochet dictatorship and the Ortega regime in Nicaragua. In reference to the first Chilean democratic elections of 1989, with the military still in government, Kast assured: “The political opponents were not locked up.” In tonight’s debate, the Republican Party candidate said he was misinterpreted or maliciously, because he has never been unaware of human rights violations.

But there were three particularly evident falls: when she asked one of the interviewers if she was married, when she claimed to disagree with her own program on an energy initiative, and when she acknowledged that she was unaware of Chile’s trend GDP. The conservative candidate – who bases his speech on order, economic growth and immigration control – showed his weakness on economic issues, a particularly conflictive front for candidate Boric, who in this debate did not make big mistakes, but neither did he shone among the competitors.

In the midst of a ban on polls – by law they cannot be published 15 days before the elections – it is not clear whether this debate will tip the balance in the final days of the La Moneda race, but there is consensus that in this polarized and competitive presidential every success and error can be decisive. While the candidate from the left defended the backbone of his government program, the profound structural changes, he took care to give certain signs of moderation in the economic and public order. Like Kast, the situation in Nicaragua has complicated the 35-year-old deputy, because his Communist Party partners published a letter of support for the regime, although part of the new generation of this formation and the candidate himself distanced themselves. A second moment of tension occurred when he was consulted about a complaint of sexual harassment that surfaced in recent days in Chile, dating from the early 2000s, when he was president of the Federation of Students of the University of Chile. “There is no accusation presented today, but I am fully available for any type of investigation, because it is not enough for me to affirm my innocence. All guarantees must be given to those who have felt and have been victims of harassment, abuse or mistreatment ”, assured the standard-bearer of the left.

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While Kast did not exactly show his best performance in the last common staging before public opinion – at one point he silenced Boric, visibly dazed – the standard-bearer of the ruling party, Sebastián Sichel, handled himself as he had not done in the previous debates, which keep alive their hopes of going to the ballot. Winner of the sector primaries held in July, he showed the letters of a modern right, not extreme, in the line of differentiating himself from Kast, which was surpassing him in the polls over the weeks. Meanwhile, the only female candidate, Yasna Provoste, a Christian Democrat flag-bearer, defended the legacy of the center-left Concertación that ruled Chile, even though she was not exactly an axis during her campaign. “We are heirs to that Concertación that has managed to reduce poverty, that has given stability, that has given governance,” said the senator, who has not been able to successfully differentiate herself from Boric and who has limited options to go to the ballot, at least according to to the polls.

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From the same liberalism, Marco Enríquez Ominami – who is running for La Moneda for the fourth time – was the main sniper of the night. With communication skills and great rudeness before the cameras, he is committed to convincing the public that he has better options than Boric to beat Kast in the second round. On the far left, the candidate Eduardó Artés, an ultra professor, who assured that he himself would lead the protests against his own government.

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With seven competitors, none exceeds 30% of adherence, according to the latest polls, and 23% of voters would still be undecided, so electoral participation in a voluntary voting system will be a determining factor that could incline the balance.

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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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