SANTIAGO – With nearly all votes counted, Chile’s presidential primaries had surprising results. On the left wing, 35-year-old Gabriel Boric defeated Recoleta mayor Daniel Jadue in a sweeping victory, while independent candidate Sebastián Sichel beat, among others, Las Condes mayor Joaquín Lavín to become the Chile Vamos coalition’s candidate. Notable is that both left-wing candidates won more votes than any of the candidates on the right wing.
In another sign that in Chile “the times they are a-changin’,” the presidential primaries held on Sunday, July 18, showed that the era of traditional political parties and veteran politicians is over.
On both sides of the political spectrum, relatively young candidates triumphed over established names: 35-year-old representative Gabriel Boric (FA) crushed Recoleta mayor Daniel Jadue (PC) with 60 percent of the over 1.6 million votes cast for this list. Boric will be the presidential candidate of the Apruebo Dignidad-pact between the Communist Party and the Broad Front.
Then over on the right wing, 43-year-old Sebastián Sichel earned nearly 50 percent of the approximately 1.25 million votes cast in the primaries for the ruling Chile Vamos coalition, thus defeating Las Condes mayor Joaquín Lavín, Evopoli-candidate Ignacio Briones,and National Renewal’s Mario Desbordes. Sichel, a former bank executive and ex-minister of Social Development in the current administration, managed to portray himself as an independent, fresh face on the right, despite the support he received from many conservative sectors.
However, for Sichel, his coalition, and the entire Chilean right-wing, the primaries on Sunday showed there is a lot of work to do before the presidential elections in November. Daniel Jadue, second after Boric, managed to win more votes than any of the right-wing candidates, and the two candidates for the Apruebo Dignidad pact managed to collect more votes than the four right-wing candidates put together. Moreover, the right wing’s winner was an independent, illustrating that voters have lost confidence in the traditional conservative parties.
For both candidates, the months ahead before the November elections will all be about deal brokering. Where Boric must maintain intact the currently shaky pact between the Communist Party of Jadue and his Broad Front and reach out to the Chilean center-left to see where he can grow his electorate, Sichel must prove he’s the candidate for both Chile’s center-right and far-right parties like the UDI, who tend to lean towards ultra-right candidate José Antonio Kast. It seems unlikely another candidate will mingle with the presidential race on the right, but on the left, positions remain open.
Several center-left parties part of the former Concertación have opted for Paula Narvaez from the Socialist Party as their candidate, although some point to the president of the Senate, Yasna Provoste, from the Christian Democrats as the ultimate joker in the deck. Carlos Maldonado from the Radical Party remains an outsider, while rumor has it Valparaíso mayor Jorge Sharp is also preparing a bid.
After another surprising election result on Sunday, one thing is clear: at this stage Chile, any candidate stands a chance.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.