Chileans vote in highly polarized presidential elections

Chileans vote in highly polarized presidential elections

Santiago The Independent: — Chileans will vote to elect a new president on Sunday, following a polarizing campaign in which leading candidates vowed to chart completely different paths for the region’s most economically advanced country, which has been grappling with the latest wave of social unrest.

Pre-election polls show a large number of undecided voters, but she has consistently favored two of the seven contending candidates: former student protest leader Gabriel Borek and his ideological successor, Jose Antonio Caste, who has a history of defending Chile’s military dictatorship.

But neither is expected to gain enough support to cross the 50% threshold required to avoid a runoff next month. Within walking distance of the front-runners are centre-right candidate Sebastien Sechelle and centre-left former Education Minister Jasna Provost. Among the members of the Chilean Chamber of Deputies, which has 155 seats, and about half of the members of the Senate.

Borek, 35, will become the youngest modern president of Chile. He was among several student activists who were elected to Congress in 2014 after leading protests for better, higher quality education. Running as head of a broad coalition that includes the Chilean Communist Party, if elected, he says he will raise taxes on the “ultra-rich” to expand social services and boost environmental protection.

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He also pledged to abolish the country’s private pension system – a hallmark of the free-market reforms imposed by General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in the 1980s.

Cast, 55, of the newly formed Republican Party was until recently seen as an outsider on the far-right fringes, receiving less than 8% of the vote in 2017 as an independent. But he has been rising steadily in the polls this time with divisive rhetoric emphasizing conservative family values ​​as well as attacking immigrants – many of them from Haiti and Venezuela – blaming the crime.

A fervent Catholic and father of nine, Caste has also targeted outgoing President Sebastian Pinera for allegedly betraying Pinochet’s economic legacy, which his brother helped implement as the dictator’s central bank chief.

Whoever wins will take control of a country in the grip of major change but unsure of its future course after decades of centrist reforms that have largely left Pinochet’s economic model intact.

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Pinera’s decision to raise subway fares in 2019 sparked months of mass protests that quickly turned into a nationwide uproar for more accessible public services, exposing the crumbling underpinnings of Chile’s “economic miracle.”

severely weakened by the turmoil, Pinera reluctantly agreed to hold a referendum on rewriting the Pinochet-era constitution. In May, the assembly tasked with crafting the new Magna Carta was elected, and it is expected to conclude sometime next year.

Meanwhile, in a fresh indication of the tensions Pinera will leave behind, the billionaire president has been impeached in the House before avoiding impeachment by the Senate over a foreign trade deal in which a decade ago his family sold their stake in a mining venture while he was serving his first two non-profit terms. consecutively.

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Inform Goodman from Miami

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