Chile’s right rejoices after pro-Pinochet candidate wins presidential first round | Chile
Chile’s right wing have claimed a jubilant victory after José Antonio Kast, a former congressman with a history of defending the Pinochet dictatorship, secured a surprise win in the first round of the country’s presidential election.
Kast, who campaigned on a platform of public order, migration controls and conservative social values, confounded expectations to take 28% of the vote and beat the progressive former student leader Gabriel Boric by two percentage points.
The two will face off in a second-round repechage on 19 December.
“I would like to thank God and my family,” Kast announced to rapturous applause on Sunday night in a leafy square in one of Santiago’s wealthiest neighbourhoods. “Chile deserves peace and freedom – and that’s what we’re going to give you.”
Across town in a middle-class barrio lined with bars and restaurants, Boric expressed confidence that “hope will triumph over fear”.
But the result is a bracing reality check for the Chilean left after two years in which the country has followed a broadly progressive trajectory.
Since 2019, mass anti-inequality protests have rocked the country, leading to the election of a broadly leftwing assembly to rewrite Chile’s Pinochet-era constitution.
But Sunday’s result suggested that the protest movement’s ability to galvanise support has worn thin.
Kast survived a bruising final week of campaigning in which his open support for Genl Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship and its economic legacy were the subject of intense scrutiny.
As he took to the brightly lit stage on Sunday night, he had regained some of the composure that had deserted him before the vote, presenting the runoff election as an existential fight against “the intransigent left”.
“We are going to chose between freedom and communism – between democracy and communism,” he said.
Kast’s campaign spokesperson, Macarena Santelices – a great-niece of Gen Pinochet who briefly served outgoing President Sebastián Piñera as women’s minister – also appeared on stage.
November 22, 2021, 7:45 pm