NATIONAL POLITICS Presidential Elections

The race is on

Nine candidates – eight men and one woman – will run to succeed Sebastián Piñera in the country’s top job. So far, only three candidates have a real shot, though. The winner will lead a government that faces the toughest challenges in Chile’s recent history.

This year’s crop of presidential candidates – nine so far – covers the entire political spectrum. On the far right is José Antonio Kast, leader of the Republicans, and on the far left is Eduardo Artés.

Three candidates have run before. Artés obtained 0.3% in 2017, Franco Parisi 10.1% in 2013, and Marco Enriquez-Ominami (ME-O), who is running a fourth time, obtained 20.1% in 2009, 10.9% in 2013 and 5.7% in 2017. In November, he won’t get more than 3%. ME-O has abandoned his partners recently so he could run on his own, which says a lot about his personalism and obsession with the ballot.

The center-left’s citizen poll is underway

Two Sides

The group can be divided into those with high and those with low chances. Among the former are leftist Gabriel Boric and right-wing independent Sebastián Sichel, who won their respective primaries with a high turnout. Christian Democrat senator Yasna Provoste won the primaries of the center-left on a turnout of less than 150,000.

The others will not obtain more than 8% each. 

What’s unknown is who will reach the second round. If the election were this Sunday, I think it would be Boric – running on the I Approve Dignity list, which includes the Broad Front coalition and the Communist Party – and Provoste, supported by the Socialist Party.

I am inclined towards this option because although Sichel – independent with support from the ruling right-wing coalition – did well in the primaries, winning almost 1.4 million votes, he will lose 7 or 8 points to José Antonio Kast, a sort of Chilean Jair Bolsonaro.

Boric’s chances are good because he’s young, not even 40, and has support from progressive sectors, which emerged in the wake of the social outbreak that started in October 2019.

Why Boric and Sichel won

A Progressive Conservative

And Provoste? She shines not just in her party but achieved a meteoric career to become the candidate for the Constituent Unity list, defeating her party colleague Ximena Rincón, who had been internally selected.

Provoste is not the Christian Democrat prototype. She is more progressive and far from the party elite. Provoste seeks dialogue across party lines, and she is a proud member of the Diaguita indigenous group, giving her party a boost. The Christian Democrats were in decline; in 2017 the party obtained just 5.8%, the lowest share in its history.

But Provoste may also strengthen the Constituent Unity list, now renamed New Social Pact. Being part of a conservative party, but advocating progressive views on abortion, for example, Provoste can capture votes from Sichel and Boric.

The great challenge for her coalition is developing a common project and creating unity. The first factor is key because it can make a difference with Boric, considering his inexperience and the fear his communist allies trigger in some sectors of the population.

It Begins

The definitive race to La Moneda has started. Speculation is over and we know the first-round contenders.

We will see where the differences are and glimpse alliances for the second round. Within just three months the candidates must explain what they offer. This is a race with many competitors that want to lead a country undergoing structural change, which is indebted, suffers from the blows of the pandemic, and is writing a new Constitution.

Without a doubt, the easiest task will be to win the election.

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