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Chile celebrates leftist Boric's election victory

December 19, 2021

Gabriel Boric, who rose to prominence during anti-government protests, has defeated the right-wing populist Jose Antonio Kast. Tens of thousands of Boric supporters have celebrated his win on the streets of Santiago.

Gabriel Boric celebrates his victory
Boric rose to prominence during anti-government protests in 2019Image: Luis Hidalgo/AP Photo/picture alliance

Chilean far-right presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast conceded defeat to leftist Gabriel Boric late Sunday.

"I just spoke with Gabriel Boric and congratulated him on his great success," Kast tweeted. "From today he is the elected President of Chile and deserves all our respect and constructive collaboration. Chile is always first."

"We are united," Boric tweeted shortly after his election victory was confirmed. "We are hope. We are more when we are together. We continue!"

"I am going to be a president of all Chileans, whether you voted for me or not," Boric, who will take office in March, said in a call with outgoing President Sebastian Pinera on Sunday night. "I am going to do my best to get on top of this tremendous challenge."

Boric had garnered 56% of the votes with almost 99% of polling stations reporting, with Kast at 44%.

Supporters of Chile's President elect Gabriel Boric, of the "I approve Dignity" coalition, celebrates his victory in the presidential run-off election in Santiago, Chile
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Santiago to celebrate Boric's victoryImage: Matias Delacroix/AP Photo/picture alliance

Who were the two candidates?

Voters were choosing between Boric, 35, a millennial former student protest leader who has vowed to raise taxes on the "super rich" and Kast, 55, a devout Catholic and father of nine who has repeatedly defended the country's former dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Kast's brother, Miguel, was one of Pinochet's top advisers. His candidacy was haunted by revelations that his German father was a member of the Nazis.

Why was there a runoff?

In the first round, both Boric and Kast drew less than 30% of the vote with Kast ahead of Boric by 2%, forcing the runoff. Boric, however, held the capital Santiago with a comfortable lead.

Both candidates are outside the centrist middle, which has ruled Chile since the country returned to democracy in 1990 after the years of military rule under Pinochet.

A older supporter of Gabriel Boric kisses the Chilean flag
Boric, Chile's youngest-ever president-elect, attracted supporters from all parts of societyImage: Matias Delacroix/AP Photo/picture alliance

How did Chileans feel before the vote?

The last opinion polls taken before the vote showed Boric ahead with his lead widening, though most polls showed a tight race.

Lucrecia Cornejo, a 72-year-old seamstress, told Reuters news agency as she stood in line to cast her ballot for Boric: "I want real change." She hoped Boric could do something about inequities in education, pensions and health care.

Dental student Florencia Vergara, 25, told Reuters she supports Kast as a "lesser evil."

"I like his proposals on economic issues, although I don't agree with all his political ideals," she said.

Boric vows to oppose controversial mining project

Chile has a population of 19 million and is the world's largest producer of copper.

With his election victory confirmed, Boric said on Sunday he will oppose mining initiatives that
"destroy" the natural environment, including the controversial Dominga iron, copper and gold mining project which is worth $2.5 billion (€2.2 billion).

Lithium sparks new Andes gold rush

ar, sdi/wd, jsi (AFP, AP, Reuters)