Chile elections: The top four candidates

·3-min read
Presidential elections in Chile (AFP/Nicolas RAMALLO)

Seven candidates will contest Chile's presidential elections Sunday, with polls showing two clear favorites in opposing political camps.

Here are short profiles of the leading four challengers.

- Left -

At 35, leftist lawmaker Gabriel Boric is Chile's youngest-ever presidential challenger -- only just meeting the required minimum age to participate.

He enjoys about a quarter of polled voter intention, riding a wave of public support for a more progressive social system.

As the candidate for the Approve Dignity coalition that includes the Communist Party, the former student activist leader has vowed to send neoliberal economic policies "to the grave" in a country with deep-rooted social inequality.

He has also promised "a welfare state so that everyone has the same rights no matter how much money they have in their wallet."

Chile has one of the highest per capita incomes in Latin America, and one of the highest concentrations of multimillionaires. But the working and even upper-middle classes are heavily indebted, often to pay for schooling and private pensions.

His detractors say Boric is inexperienced in politics and are suspicious of his allegiance to communists.

But supporters say his lack of ties to the ruling elite, increasingly viewed with hostility, count in his favor.

- Right -

On the far right is lawyer Jose Antonio Kast, 55, an admirer of Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet, and of his neoliberal economic model that seeks to boost private enterprise, critics say at the expense of the poor and working classes.

Kast, leader of the Republican Party, has also expressed kinship with other conservative leaders such as Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump in the United States, but does not like being classified as extreme right.

This is his second presidential contest, having gotten to fourth place in 2017.

Married and father to nine children, Kast is an active member of a conservative Catholic movement.

His family of German immigrants moved to Santiago in 1951, and became wealthy from sausage production and a restaurant chain.

Kast's economic model proposes reducing public spending, cutting taxes, and trimming the number of ministries, including that of women's affairs.

He has also promised to restore order in a time of great political uncertainty, with many Chileans fearful of immigration and crime, and angry about violence and arson committed by certain anti-government protesters.

"Violence always benefits the candidate offering order and a restitution of the rule of law. In this case, it is Jose Antonio Kast," Mauricio Morales, a political analyst at Talca university, told AFP.

"Sometimes fear is a greater mobilizer than hope."

- And center -

The only woman in the race is 51-year-old former PT teacher Yasna Provoste, a Christian Democrat and former speaker of the Senate who has backing from center left parties.

She has campaigned on a platform that promises $6 billion annually for four years to finance economic recovery and lower the fiscal debt.

Provoste has been polled in distant third place, followed by center-right independent candidate Sebastian Sichel, 44, a lawyer and former social development minister in the government of outgoing President Sebastian Pinera, who has come to the end of his term with record levels of disapproval.

Sichel, of Pinera's center-right Chile Vamos (Let's Go Chile) alliance, has lost support during the campaign, partly over a measure allowing citizens to make an early withdrawal their pension funds to get through the coronavirus pandemic.

Sichel had spoken out against the measure in the legislature, yet it was approved, he himself withdrew the maximum allowed 10 percent of his savings.

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