Presidential election in Chile: young people, key electorate to block the far right



Going up the stairs of the city of 42 hills to reach her student room in Valparaiso, Catalina Souarez, 28, places blue and green stamped sheets on the forecourt of her neighbors. “Boric President”. The young feminist does not however consider Gabriel Boric as her candidate, but “It is the only option to block fascism, in the second round”.

The fear of a “retreat”

If his opponent, the 55-year-old lawyer José Antonio Kast, became president of Chile this Sunday, December 19, it would, in his eyes, be “A step backwards for human rights and social progress”. The far-right candidate won the first round of the presidential election on November 21 with nearly 28% of the vote, two points ahead of the 35-year-old student leader.

→ REPORT. Presidential in Chile, the extremes in a good position

Until last Saturday – deadline for publishing polls – opinion polls gave Gabriel Boric the winner in the second round. But one important variable makes prognosis difficult: abstention. Only 47% of those registered turned out in the first round, against 51% in the October 2020 referendum to approve a new Constitution. The decline was even more marked among young people under 30, down ten points (45% against 55%).

The age of voters, an important factor in voting

However, on November 21, the age of voters was an important factor: “Gabriel Boric’s strongest group is that of the under 30s, and José Antonio Kast does better among the over 50s,” explains the founder of Decide Chile, an electoral analysis site, Cristobal Huneeus. He adds that “Boric must seek the votes of young people from the middle class, frustrated by the social revolt which did not give the expected answers. They went to vote in the referendum but, there, they did not come ”.

This is the case of Claudio, 24, graphic designer in Valparaiso, who mobilized on social networks during the social revolt and who voted in the plebiscite for a new Constitution.. But he abstained in the first round of the presidential ballot, not feeling represented by “None of the candidates”. This Sunday, he will vote: “Kast, to me it’s like Bolsonaro. I have a good number of friends who consider themselves to be minorities, and they are going to have a hard time if the far right passes. “

Last visit to Valparaiso for Gabriel Boric

The popular port city of Valparaiso where Claudio and Catalina live is one of the places where Gabriel Boric could earn a lot of points, especially if the young people decide to go and vote. His last day of travel before the end of the campaign on Thursday, it is precisely in Valparaiso that he spends it. Crossing the candidate’s caravan, Camille Roman, 27, launches: “I voted for Artés (extreme left candidate, Editor’s note) in the first round “, which gathered 1.46% of the votes. She preferred to give her first vote “To a candidate who, at least, relentlessly demanded the release of the political prisoners of the revolt”.

In the second round, she will vote for Boric because she does not want “That a Nazi be elected and that the persecutions continue, or worsen”. Camille was born in Valparaiso and grew up on Cordillera Hill, one of the most popular: “The social revolt opened my eyes and helped me position myself politically. I have lost confidence in all political parties, regardless of their color. “

Still according to the analysis carried out by the electoral platform Decide Chile,the fall in the participation of under-30s between the referendum of October 2020 and the first round of the presidential election was even more spectacular in the regions of Valparaiso and Santiago. A possible civic burst of young Chileans in cities would weigh heavily in the outcome of Sunday’s poll.

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Two opposing visions for Chile

For the first time since the return to democracy in 1990, the center-left and center-right parties are absent from the second round of a presidential election. This Sunday, December 19, the Chileans will have to choose between two candidates with radically opposed visions.

► José Antonio Kast, 55 years old. The far-right candidate won the first round on November 21, promising order and security. He wants to reduce the size of the Chilean state and protect the economic and social model set up by the dictatorship and contested during the social movement of 2019.

► Gabriel Boric, 35 years old. The former student leader is the candidate for change. As part of the continuity of the 2019 movement, it promises deep reforms, “To live better”. Its program thus includes the abolition of pension funds, in favor of a pay-as-you-go retirement, the 40-hour work week, or even the legalization of abortion.

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