Chilean Prexy's Biggest Problem: Dismantling Elite Rule
Leftist and former student leader Gabriel Boric, 35, will become Chile's youngest President after he won a presidential runoff election on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021.
Photo Insert: Chile's youngest President, Gabriel Boric
With 99.95% of ballots counted, Boric won with 55.87% of the vote, securing victory over his right-wing opponent, Jose Antonio Kast, who trailed with 44.13%, Karol Suarez, Rafael Romo, Helen Regan, and Hira Humayun reported for CNN.
Representing polar opposites of Chile's presidential race, Boric and Jose Antonio Kast emerged as the two leading candidates after a general election was held on November 21. Kast garnered 28% of that vote, missing the necessary 50% needed to avoid a runoff.
Boric came in second with 25%. Kast, whose recent surge in popularity has surprised critics, has sometimes been compared to former US President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro -- he is a staunch defender of former dictator General Augusto Pinochet's regime and the free market.
The 55-year-old former congressman's agenda included a tax cut for companies, building barriers in the north of Chile to prevent migrants from entering illegally and abolishing abortion.
Boric meanwhile, was a student leader in the Chilean capital rallying against the country's privatized education system alongside thousands of others 10 years ago. This election comes two years after massive protests and riots shook the country in October 2019, with protesters demanding improved pensions, better education, and the end of an economic system they said favors the elite.
The unrest led to now-outgoing President Pinera to agree to a referendum to change the constitution, which was inherited from Pinochet's bloody dictatorship.
Boric's political platform has been riding on that wave, which includes proposals for a more inclusive public health system, to cancel student debt, to raise taxes for the super wealthy, and a revision of the state's private pension system -- which was inherited from Pinochet's military regime.
But Chile still hasn't regained the stability for which it was once known. It has been hard-hit economically by the pandemic, and brutal clashes between protesters and security forces continue weekly in Santiago
Boric was widely perceived as the presidential candidate who better represented the country's social movement that wants to dismantle elite rule. He is a supporter of abortion rights, a welfare state model, and leads a broad coalition that includes Chile's Communist Party.
Speaking after his victory Sunday, Analyst Robert Funk, professor at the University of Chile, said Boric has had "an amazing, meteoric political career," in rising from student leader to President-elect.
"It's a very clear mandate from Chilean voters," Funk said. "His party, his message, really shows the desire -- and the fact that Chilean's voted for that -- shows a desire for change for a more modern Chile."