The left-wing millennials who rose to prominence during anti-government protests elected Chile’s next president on Sunday, after an acrimonious campaign against free-market rioters resembling former US President Donald Trump.
With 56 percent of the vote, Gabriel Borek, 35, was handily defeated by 10-point rival Jose Antonio Caste, who unsuccessfully tried to scare voters that his young, inexperienced opponent would overturn Chile’s garnished record as the most stable and advanced economy in Latin America. . .
In a model of democratic civility emerging from the polarizing rhetoric of the campaign, Caste immediately recognized defeat, tweeting a picture of himself on the phone with his opponent and congratulating him on his “big victory.”
Gabriel Borek, 35, won Chile’s presidential election yesterday. Pictured: He gave a victory speech during festivities in Santiago, Chile
Borek became the country’s youngest leader after his rival conceded defeat on Sunday
He later traveled in person to Mr. Borek’s campaign headquarters to meet his rival.
Meanwhile, outgoing President Sebastian Pinera – a conservative billionaire – held a video conference with Mr. Borek to offer his government’s full support during the three-month transition period.
“I will be president of all Chileans,” Borek said in the brief television appearance with Mr. Pinera.
In the Santiago subway, where a 2019 price hike triggered a nationwide wave of protests that exposed the shortcomings of Chile’s free-market model, young pro-Borek youths jumped and shouted in unison.
They drove downtown to join the thousands who had gathered for the president-elect’s victory speech.
In his first public address after the far-right defeat Jose Antonio Caste with 56 percent of the vote, the former student leader reiterated his commitment to “caring for democracy every day” and thanked the six other candidates who competed in the election.
A person blows fire as supporters celebrate Chilean President-elect Gabriel Borek after the official results of the presidential election run-off, in Santiago, Chile
“This is a historic day,” said teacher Boris Soto. We defeated not only fascism and the right, but also fear.
Borek’s victory will likely be felt across Latin America, where ideological divisions have been growing amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has reversed a decade of economic gains, exposing long-standing deficiencies in health care and a depth of inequality that is among the worst in the world. .
At 35, Borek will become Chile’s youngest modern president when he takes office in March, and the second millennial to take the lead in Latin America, after El Salvador’s President Neb Bukele.
He was among several activists who were elected to Congress in 2014 after leading protests for high-quality education.
Thousands came to downtown Santiago to celebrate the historic victory in the elections
He has vowed to “bury” the neoliberal economic model left over from the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet from 1973 to 1990 and to raise taxes on “the super-rich” to expand social services, fight inequality, and promote environmental protection.
Mr. Caste, who has a history of defending Chile’s former military dictatorship, finished two points ahead of Borek in the first round of voting last month, but failed to secure a majority of the vote, triggering a face-to-face runoff between the two parties. two.
Borek was able to reverse the difference by a larger margin than pre-election polls predicted by expanding beyond his base in the capital, Santiago, and attracting rural voters who do not stand with political extremism.
An additional 1.2 million Chileans voted on Sunday compared to the first round, bringing turnout to nearly 56 percent, the highest since voting stopped being mandatory in 2012.
Borek’s victory will likely be felt across Latin America, where ideological divisions are growing amid the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured: Celebrations in Santiago yesterday
“It’s impossible not to be impressed by the historic turnout, Caste’s willingness to compromise and congratulate his opponent even before the final results come out, and the kind words of President Pinera,” said Cynthia Arnson, head of the Center’s Latin America Program. Wilson Center in Washington.
“Chilean democracy definitely won today.”
Mr. Caste, 55, a devout Roman Catholic and father of nine, came out from the far right after receiving less than 8 percent of the vote in 2017.
An admirer of Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, he has risen steadily in the polls this time with divisive rhetoric emphasizing conservative family values and playing on Chileans’ fears that increased immigration – from Haiti and Venezuela – is driving crime.
As a legislator, he has a record of attacking the LGBTQ community in Chile and advocating for more restrictive abortion laws.
In recent days, both candidates have tried to veer towards the center.
Borek will become Chile’s youngest modern president when he takes office in March, and the second millennial to lead Latin America, after El Salvador’s President Neb Bukele.
“I’m not an extremist… I don’t feel right,” Mr. Caste declared at the last stage even as he was haunted by revelations that his German-born father was a card-carrying member of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party.
But while Mr. Caste made a whirlwind trip to Washington, where he met Republican Senator Marco Rubio, Borek forged a broader alliance with traditional left-wing parties, added centrist advisers, and promised that any changes would be gradual and fiscally responsible.
Borek’s victory is likely to be affected by a divided Congress.
In addition, political rules could soon change as the newly elected Congress rewrites the country’s constitution under Pinochet.
The pact – the country’s most powerful elected institution – could in theory call for new presidential elections when it concludes next year and if the new charter is ratified in a public referendum.