(19 Dec 2021) The candidate for the Republican Party, Jose Antonio Kast voted Sunday in the Chilean presidential runoff and said he was confident of winning but “prepared for any scenario.”
Kast, a lawmaker who has a history of defending Chile’s military dictatorship, finished ahead in the first round of voting last month but failed to secure a majority of votes, setting up a head-to-head runoff against Gabriel Boric, who trailed him by about two points.
Whoever wins and replace outgoing President Sebastián Piñera will be breaking precedent.
Since the return of democracy three decades ago, no candidate leading after the first round has ever been defeated in the runoff.
But no president has ever been elected without winning in the capital, Santiago, which Boric carried comfortably in the first round.
Kast, 55, a devout Catholic and father of nine, emerged from the far right fringe after having won less than 8% of the vote in 2017.
But he’s been steadily rising in the polls this time with a divisive discourse emphasizing conservative family values and playing on Chileans’ fears that a surge in migration — from Haiti and Venezuela — is driving crime.
A longtime lawmaker, he has a record of attacking Chile’s LGBTQ community and advocating for more restrictive abortion laws.
He’s also accused outgoing and fellow conservative President Sebastian Pinera of betraying the economic legacy of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the country’s former military leader.
Kast’s brother, Miguel, was one of Pinochet’s top advisors.
Boric, 35, would become Chile’s youngest modern president. He was among several activists elected to Congress in 2014 after leading protests for higher quality education.
If elected he says he will “bury” the sputtering neoliberal economic model left by Pinochet and raise taxes on the “super rich” to expand social services, fight inequality and boost protections of the environment.
In recent days, both candidates have tried to veer toward the center.
Whoever wins will have a slim mandate and be hemmed in by a divided congress.
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