Presidential Elections

Presidential candidates clash during second television debate

With the November 21 elections approaching, the electoral race is heating up. This became clear during the second television debate on Monday night. Candidates took especially aim at their main rivals, while some coalitions seemed to be emerging.

Gabriel Boric from the Broad Front has been the focus of the debate because he’s leading all polls, even though these surveys often lack credibility. Boric is the candidate for the leftwing, running on a shaky pact with the Communist Party. But the electoral race is getting especially interesting in the center and on the right. After a weak start, center-left candidate Yasna Provoste from the Christian Democrats is gaining traction, while center-right Sebastián Sichel is being overtaken by far-right José Antonio Kast. The rivalries became clear during the debate Monday night, when the candidates faced off in the second television debate ahead of the November 21 elections.

Apart from Boric, Sichel, Kast and Provoste, far-left Eduardo Artés and Marco Enriquez-Ominami also took part. The latter, a leftwing candidate who has been running in presidential elections for the past decade, is trying for the fourth time. The chances for Artés and Enriquez-Ominami are slim, so they were barely confronted and could comfortably observe how the others got at each other.

Sichel, once the main candidate of the right, has been falling back and was overtaken in the surveys by Provoste on the left and Kast on the right. Being the favorite of President Sebastián Piñera has turned into a liability for the former minister and former chief of state lender Banco Estado. One memorable moment during the debate was his face-off with former Senate president Provoste. Sichel, often criticized for his close ties to Chile’s business elites, was confronted with his past as a gas lobbyist . He became evasive, which gave Provoste a level of confidence she had not previously shown.

What Kast stands for

Unable to counter Provoste, Sichel resorted to ad hominem attacks, which, however, weakened his policy profile. That, in turn, benefited his biggest rival on the right, José Antonio Kast. He proposed digging a million-dollar ditch on the Chilean border to halt immigration, leaving the UN human rights council, and closing the National Institute for Human Rights.

Thanks to Sichel’s weak campaign and the immigration crisis in the north, Kast has positioned himself as Boric’s biggest rival in the second round of the elections. Very much aware of this strength, Kast confronted Boric several times. A great debater, other candidates often failed to seriously challenge him on his stance regarding human rights. But Kast failed to respond when Boric pulled out a contract, signed by Kast, with a Panama-based notary, showing how the self-proclaimed patriot hid millions of dollars from the country he wants to serve. But with the controversial candidate gaining popularity on the right, the electoral race will become more intense.

Although both Boric and Provoste are trying to convince voters on the left, their exchanges on Monday night were rather amicable. Boric asked Provoste about her program while constantly underlining the similarities between the two, trying to show center-left Chileans what he has in store. He kept highlighting agreement of disagreement. In a possible second round, Boric will need the support of Provoste, which he knows. The biggest takeaway from this debate, then, is that the left is far more united than the right.

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