Chile Presidential Runoffs: Meet the Final Candidates

Written by León Lanis, Paralegal

Chile is in a period of political change. Since the social unrest that began in October 2019 and the pandemic, Chile has voted for a new Constitution and strived for its biggest social reforms since the return to democracy in 1991. Within this context, Chile is currently in the process of electing a new President, with the first round of elections occurring in November.

The first round of elections left Chile with two candidates proceeding to the runoff vote for the Presidency: José Antonio Kast and Gabriel Boric, which will campaign against each other on the ballot on the upcoming 19 December vote.

Both candidates have proven controversial for their policies and personal views, being seen as opposites of the political spectrum with Right wing candidate José Antonio Kast and the Left wing candidate Gabriel Boric. Within this post, we’ll review the main aspects of each candidates’ programs.

 

Gabriel Boric:

Mr. Boric is currently a Congressman for the Magallanes Region, representing his party named “Frente Amplio” and his pact with the Communist Party named “Approve-Dignity” (named after the elections for the new Constitution). With just 35 years of age, the former Law Student, head of the “penguin revolution” (the revolution made in 2008 by university students demanding gratuity of education) Gabriel Boric is the youngest candidate for the Presidency since the return to democracy.

Boric’s platform seeks to expand social reforms seeded by the October social unrest, representing most (if not all) of the demands made by the protesters.

His campaign is now being supported by most of those on the left, including half of the Democracia Cristiana (DC) party, which is a very important party in Chile and especially by the Communist Party (PC).

 

José Antonio Kast

Former Congressman and lawyer, Kast has been widely compared to Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro or the United States’ Ronald Reagan. He is the head of the right wing “Republican Party” and the pact with the Christian Conservative Party. He has faced wide criticism for his comments regarding abortion, same-sex marriage and the role of women in the economy. The conservative candidate is now being widely supported for the second bout by the right-wing parties such as UDI, Renovación Nacional, Evopoli and most surprisingly by half of the moderate left-wing party of the Democracia Cristiana. His main policies focus on the re-activation of the economy and security / crime and the fight against “terrorism, street violence and drug trafficking”.

 

Main Policies

The economy

Boric

  • His main idea goes to the reactivation of work after the pandemic. The left-wing candidate wants to increase state bonds and subsidies for women and green companies, especially if they are considered small enterprises.
  • In addition, Boric wants to increase taxes on bigger companies in order to fund his proposed social reforms. Even though this is a pillar to his economic-social reform, he has not yet clarified what is to be considered a “big enterprise”.

Kast

  • His main idea is the re-activation of the economy by applying tax reduction, especially for small businesses.
  • His aim with this is to bring back international and national investors by promising security and cutting red-tape in business.

 

Pensions

Boric

  • Proposes to overhaul the Chilean pension system. Within the social demands, many Chileans have fought to end the ‘AFP’ system, so this candidate proposes to create a new Voluntary Social Fund system, where gradually people will change their pensions to a “solidary” system called SPS.
  • His objective is to gradually end the AFP system and set up a State Managed Fund with democratically elected administrators.

Kast

  • Kast wants to empower individual savings and portfolio risk decisions while enforcing saving and anti-elusion to those who have opted out of the system. The enforcement of savings will be done through a universal basic contribution system (where everyone must contribute at least a small percentage of their wages)
  • In addition, regarding his tax reforms, he wants to end any tax at retirement.

 

On the Araucania region and national security

We must highlight that this is a very sensitive topic for many Chileans, and it has divided and conflicting opinions.

Boric

  • Initially, Boric’s policy was for dialogue but providing general support of the insurgent movements in the south.
  • He has also indicated support for the “plurinational movement”, which seeks to give more political autonomy to indigenous communities.
  • Also, Boric has been one of the main promoters of the “national pardon law”, where he seeks to pardon anyone imprisoned for arson, violence against the police or looting of big businesses during the revolution.
  • More recently, however, Boric has softened his tone in order to build a consensus with the centre and right, stating that he will “relentlessly” prosecute terrorism and will not approve any pardons.

Kast

  • His plan is “the full application of the law”, meaning the use of military force, if necessary, to end any ongoing unrest in Araucanía.
  • He also wants to strengthen the police and military to secure the borders and stop drug trafficking.
  • He is the key opponent of “national pardon law” because in his own words this is pardoning terrorism. To this end, he proposes severe legal punishments and prosecution against anyone who committed a crime during the 2018 social protests.

 

Climate Change

  • Both candidates have policies that are similar overall on Climate Change Control.
  • Boric plans severe sanctions against any company that contaminates and incentives to any green business.
  • Kast also proposes sanctions, but his plan is more focused on the application of green energies through national tender processes and opportunities, including solar, wind and hydrogen-based solutions.

 

Conclusion

Even though José Antonio Kast led the first round with a lead of around 300,000 votes, it is yet unknown which candidate may win. Many political analysts (national or foreign) believe that the winning candidate will be whomever captures the support of voters for the former candidate, Franco Parisi (who led his party from the US and was never in Chile during the elections). Parisi himself is yet to express support for either candidate. With this in mind, the race is still wide open as campaigning continues in the build-up to 19 December.

Harris Gomez Group opened its doors in 1997 as an Australian legal and commercial firm. In 2001, we expanded our practice to the international market with the establishment of our office in Santiago, Chile. This international expansion meant we could provide an essential bridge for Australian companies with interests and activities in Latin America, and in so doing, became the first Australian law firm with an office in Latin America.

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