Presidential Elections

International media react to first-round results

Sunday’s presidential election results were surprising in some ways but not in others. As expected, José Antonio Kast and Gabriel Boric advanced to the runoff ticket for Dec. 19, but unexpectedly Franco Parisi won third place all the way from the United States. Much of the international media has viewed the election and the results as clear signs that Chileans want change.

The international media has been covering this presidential election with great interest and anticipation. The working assumption is that this election is a referendum on the direction Chile should take.

The topline results were fairly expected: far-right candidate José Antonio Kast and former student leader Gabriel Boric won 27.94 percent and 25.75 percent of the vote respectively, but virtually no one guessed that outsider Franco Parisi, campaigning all the way from Alabama in the United States, would secure third place. The overriding reaction from the international media is a sense that Chileans agree that there needs to be change but are divided over what that change should be.

The BBC highlighted the top contenders’ divergent strategies for the country. Boric has promoted moderate leftwing policies that resonate with progressives, while Kast has championed law and order and a return to Chile’s past. The fact that no one managed to secure 50 percent in the first round and reports that there will be a higher turnout for the runoff are seen as a sign of the divisive nature of Chilean politics.

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The Guardian newspaper argues that Kast’s victory over Boric in the first round suggests “Kast’s hardline stance on several big issues resonated more with voters than Boric’s plans to expand … Chile’s social welfare system,” and that Kast constitutes a populist backlash against Chile’s “progressive trajectory” since the estallido (social outbreak) in 2019.

In America, media outlets see the results as an end to the centrist legacy and system that Pinochet created, with the Wall Street Journal arguing that two anti-establishment candidates “on polar ends of the political spectrum” have been chosen by the electorate in a country that has traditionally been “led by business-friendly moderates.” This, the Journal reports, is “deepening the political instability in Latin America’s most affluent country” that previously managed to reduce poverty through free trade

The Deutsche Welle observes that the presidential runoff is between two political outsiders who will take over as the country is preparing to re-write the Pinochet constitution. They see these outsider candidates as symptomatic of the “polarized and anti-establishment tendencies” in global politics in general right now. From their perspective, the preference for divergent anti-establishment candidates and the social protests that deepened this divide are not unique to Chile.


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