Although the presidential campaigns ahead of Sunday’s vote in Chile were marred by fake news and smear campaigns, the aftermath of the elections was as it should be in democracy. A quick count, an accepted defeat by losing candidate José Antonio Kast, and a mass celebration for the winner, Gabriel Boric. Hope defeated fear and younger generations have shown they are part of the country’s future.
Although symbolic, it was one of the most important moments on election night: as results came pouring in and Gabriel Boric widened his lead, his fierce rival José Antonio Kast was quick to recognize defeat and called his opponent to congratulate him. Kast even headed to Boric’s headquarters for a brief conversation. Although Kast and his party will without a doubt form part of the tough opposition Boric will face in Congress, it showed that democracy was very much alive in Chile.
The electoral process itself was flawless. Polling stations opened early, counting went quickly, and despite the massive turnout (the largest since voting became voluntary in Chile), there were barley any lines at voting booths. When authorities seemed to try to obstruct the voting by limiting public buses in lower-middle class neighborhoods, Chileans organized themselves and offered free rides so that people could complete their civic duty.
Within 90 minutes after polling stations closed, Chile knew its next president. Tens of thousands of people then flocked together in Santiago center, several blocks away from La Moneda presidential palace, Boric’s new office starting in March 2022. From Plaza Baquedano (or Plaza Dignidad for protesters) all the way to Boric headquarters at Serrano, a massive crowd danced, sang, celebrated, and cheered their victorious president-elect. Mapuche flags waved next to rainbow flags. Elders, who remembered the days of Pinochet, stood next to young feminists. A night full of fireworks and music.
From his presidential campaign to the crowd he joined in victory, Boric has introduced a new form of politics to which the Chile of those famous “30 years” wasn’t accustomed: inclusive politics with space at the table for social movements, grass roots organizations, minorities, and opposition sectors; no deals behind closed doors and instead open politics where transparency and dialogue are key aspects.
In that sense, his youth might be an advantage. Boric has not been corrupted by decades of traditional politics and because of his background is closely connected to the people.
He was a student leader in 2011 and disrupted the binominal political system in 2013 when he ran for representative as an independent and won. More recently, he formed a new left-wing coalition that, despite internal struggles, managed to present a political project that convinced millions of Chileans. He won the presidency and showed that the younger generations in Chile now share the power. A new cycle for Chile has begun.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today.