By María M.Mur
Santiago de Chile, Jul 17 (EFE).- A year and a half after protests put the country’s institutionality on the ropes and in a polarized Latin America, Chile opted for moderation on Sunday with the election of former government minister Sebastian Sichel and former student leader Gabriel Boric as candidates for the presidential elections in November.
Against all odds and defying the polls once again, Sichel and Boric prevailed by a wide margin over political heavyweights who had emerged as favorites over recent weeks, including the ultraconservative former mayor Jaoquín Lavín and the communist mayor Daniel Jadue.
Sichel, who was minister of social development under President Sebastián Piñera between 2018-2019 and president of the state-owned BancoEstado until December 2020, ran as an independent candidate in the primaries.
With experience in several parties across the political spectrum, including the center-left Christian Democratic Party, in which he served for more than a decade, Sichel has portrayed himself as a centrist candidate, concerned about Chile’s neglected middle class and the discrediting of traditional politics.
“The time has come to change history for the better, the history of ordinary people (…) Goodbye to the old politics that divides the world in two,” Sichel, 43, said.
With a proposal to change the current neoliberal model and a special focus on feminism and the environment, Boric secured 60.3 percent of the votes to overthrow Jadue, who was involved in several controversies in the final stretch of the campaign.
“Don’t be afraid of youth changing this country (…) If Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave,” said the Frente Amplio (FA) lawmaker for the southern Magallanes region.
At 35 years of age, Boric, who was part of student protests demanding free public education a decade ago and has been a parliamentarian since 2014, is the youngest candidate in the primaries and the only one to have surpassed 1 million votes, something that hasn’t happened since the 2013 primaries that led to the election of former socialist President Michelle Bachelet.
“To those who still doubt, to those who have been fighting for many years to change the model: here you will find the doors open in a candidacy that knows how to listen,” he said.
The right has suffered two defeats since the 2019 social unrest.
“For the first time, the left chooses a candidate with a chance of success in the elections without the presence of the parties that governed the country for almost three decades,” Lucia Dammert, from the University Of Santiago de Chile, told EFE.
Lucia added that Boric’s overwhelming victory is because “he is less sectarian and showed greater capacity for dialog and empathy for differences” and complicates things for the center-left parties, which failed to agree to register a common candidacy in the primaries.
The first round of the presidential elections will be held on Nov. 21 and the runoff on Dec. 19.
The winner will be faced with the task of taking Chile out of the multiple crisis facing the country – social, institutional, health and economic – and enacting the new constitution. EFE