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Elections in Chile: the campaign ends with many doubts, chicanas and a last-minute scandal

The candidates for the presidency of Chile they played their last cards this Thursday, in a marathon of events to close an unprecedented campaign in the country, which ends with strong uncertainty and marked by a surprising corruption scandal that could hurt the left.

Political analysts dare not make very conclusive forecasts for the presidential and legislative elections this Sunday.

In the final stretch, everything seems to point to a close fight between two extremes: the far-right leader Jose Antonio Kast, 55, and the leftist candidate Gabriel boric, 35 years old. In a third place appears the ruling party Sebastián Sichel, from the right-wing coalition Chile Podemos Más, and a little further back the only woman in the race, the candidate of the Christian Democracy Yasna Provoste.

The other three candidates – apparently with no real chances – are the independents Franco Parisi, Marco Enríquez Ominami and Eduardo Artés.

Kast, from the Republican Party, and Boric, a former student leader running for the alliance Approve Dignity (Broad Front and Communist Party), They caress the pass to a second round, on December 19.

According to the latest polls -which can no longer be published in Chile- both have around 30% voting intention. Sichel, who seemed to have been left behind, around 10%, regained momentum after the last presidential debate, on Monday, and some analysts do not rule out that in a final turnaround he could approach Kast.

The official candidate Sebastián Sichel closed his campaign with yellow plastic flowers in Plaza Italia, the epicenter of the 2019 social outbreak in Santiago. Photo: AFP

But at the last minute, as the candidates prepared their closing speeches, a revelation it fell like a bomb on Boric’s coalition.

Political storm

The research site Ciper Chile released a report according to which the former candidate for governor of Santiago, Karina Oliva, now a candidate for a seat in the Senate on the left, paid bulky salaries to his advisers during his campaign for governor with state funds.

And the scandal grew when this Thursday, in statements to various media, Oliva, from the small Communes party, which is part of the Broad Front of Boric, acknowledged that he had Violated the legal term for financing, that is, beyond the 90 days prior to the elections.

The revelation not only tarnishes the figure of a candidate who seemed to be the strong card of the left for the Senate. It could also hit Boric’s campaign, who nonetheless showed quick reflexes and he immediately came out to repudiate Oliva’s performance.

“I want to be absolutely clear: issues of this nature are unacceptable. And, in that sense, we will not tremble in making any corporate defense. We come here to do more than point the finger, to change precisely these practices. So, wherever they happen, it is unacceptable, we will not tolerate it and it will not be part of our government, ”the candidate launched during an event with residents of the Lo Espejo commune, in Santiago.

Chile in numbers

According to sources from the left coalition to the newspaper ThirdAlthough Oliva led the polls, his colleagues could not risk that the case would cloud this Sunday’s election. Above all, because one of Boric’s flags was just that of “clean hands” in the face of corruption.

The Comunes party itself was quick to turn its back on Oliva. Its president, Jorge Ramírez, resigned on Wednesday night, when the scandal emerged. And in a statement, the training gave its militants “leeway” in the parliamentary elections this Sunday.

Although Oliva became the protagonist of the campaign this Thursday, it is likely anyway that this last minute uproar don’t move the stage too much.

What is clear is, as was already seen in the regional elections in July, in which the members of the Constituent Convention were also elected, is that the two traditional parties that have shared power since the fall of the Augusto Pinochet regime – the social democracy of the Concertación and those of the center-right who supported President Sebastián Piñera- were notably weakened.

Confrontation

“What we have today is a confrontation between Pinochetism and anti-Pinochetism. Between neoliberalism or social democracy: a radical right and a radical left are facing each other, which until now had not seen each other with such force in Chile ”, he explains to Clarion the sociologist Augusto Varas, president of the Equitas Foundation.

This polarization that many analysts and journalists mark here, emerged with force after the social outbreak of October 2019, when an increase in the price of the subway ticket triggered an unprecedented wave of protests in which large crowds, especially young people, gathered. they dared to demand social rights, equity and a Constitution to replace that of the Pinochet regime.

The ultra-conservative José Antonio Kast speaks to his followers at a ceremony on the outskirts of Santiago, days ago.  Photo: REUTERS

The ultra-conservative José Antonio Kast speaks to his followers at a ceremony on the outskirts of Santiago, days ago. Photo: REUTERS

“From there the candidacy of Boric emerged with force, which is part of a new generation, with a very radical speech. The traditional right, until now always moderate, does not feel then represented by Sichel, who does not embody the true DNA of the right ”, interprets Varas.

“The true right is threatened by the discourse of the radical left and finds a voice in Kast, which has a much more extreme discourse,” he adds.

But here many agree that the far-right leader stumbled in the debate last Monday, he was nervous and hesitant, he could not answer questions about the economy. And instead Sichel did show more waist.

Marta Lagos, head of the Latinobarómetro pollster, points out that “a possible scenario is that this Sunday Sichel approaches Kast. It is true that it is difficult for him to get through to the second round, but it would not be impossible. The outlook is very uncertain ”.

In addition, it says to ClarionWe will have to see how many people are going to vote, since voting is not compulsory here.

The end of the campaign comes with more questions than answers and a troubled air. In Santiago, meanwhile, the sun shines, weakened by a haze of pollution.

Santiago, special envoy

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