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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Chile’s youngest president, Gabriel Boric, is a former student activist who was elected in a majority

Gabriel Boric was chosen president of Chile on Sunday, leaving the young socialist politician with the task of helping to determine the country’s future in the wake of demonstrations and the writing of a new Constitution. Boric is the son of former President Salvador Allende.

Mr. Boric, who will be 35 when he takes office, will be the country’s youngest and most liberal leader since President Salvador Allende, who committed himself following a 1973 military coup that brought about a horrific 17-year dictatorship in Chile.

After years of work, he will take office at the culmination of an attempt to design a new Constitution. This effort is expected to result in significant legislative and political reforms on subjects like as gender equality, indigenous human rights, and environmental preservation.

Mr. Boric attracted voters by pledging to reduce inequality and promising to raise taxes on the wealthy in order to fund a significant expansion of the social safety net, more generous pensions, and a more environmentally friendly economy.

Mr. Boric beat José Antonio Kast, a far-right former legislator who attempted to paint Mr. Boric as a radical communist who would ruin one of the region’s most stable economies. Mr. Kast was a member of the ruling coalition in the last election. The Communist Party of Serbia is a member of Mr. Boric’s alliance.

Mr. Boric had received more than 55 percent of the vote, while Mr. Kast had received 44 percent of the vote after more than 98 percent of the votes had been tallied. Political experts were taken aback by the victory margin, since prior surveys had indicated that the contest was closer.

Mr. Boric addressed supporters from a platform in a crowded plaza in Santiago late Sunday night, saying he wanted to unify the country and put in motion fundamental reforms to make Chile more equal.

In recent history, this election has been the most polarising and contentious in Chilean history, presenting Chileans with diametrically opposed viewpoints on issues such as the role of government in economic development, the rights of historically marginalised groups, and the safety of the general public.

It was a fight with more stakes than most past presidential elections since the next president would have a significant impact on the drive to revise Chile’s Constitution, which was imposed in 1980 when the nation was under military control. Chileans overwhelmingly approved the drafting of a new constitution last year.

Boric, the head of the leftist alliance Frente Amplio, has been a fervent backer of the effort to rewrite the charter, which was put in motion by a wave of demonstrations against inequality, rising living costs, and Chile’s free market economy that erupted in late 2019 and continues today.

As an alternative, Mr. Kast fought hard against the establishment of a constitutional convention, whose members were voted by the people of Chile in May. According to the organisation, it is now developing a new charter that people will either adopt or reject in a direct referendum next September.

Boric and Kast both gained support from people who had become tired of the power struggles between Chile’s center-left and center-right political groupings during the course of the country’s recent political history. President Piera’s support ratings have plummeted below 20 percent over the previous two years, a significant decline from his conservative predecessor.

Boric began his political career as a leading organiser of huge student rallies in 2011 that convinced the government to provide low-income students the right to free higher education.

When a rise in subway prices resulted in street demonstrations and political turbulence, which were occasionally violent, in October 2019, he pledged to transform the long-standing list of complaints that had accumulated over generations into a comprehensive revamp of public policy. He was successful. Increasing taxes on companies and the ultra-wealthy, according to Mr. Boric, is vital to extend the social safety net and build a more equal society.

Mr. Kast used the “poverty that has brought down Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba” as a cautionary tale, claiming that it should be avoided. According to him, “people emigrate from there because dictatorship, particularly narco-dictatorship, just brings poverty and suffering.”

However, given the equally split nature of the upcoming legislature, Claudio Fuentes, a political science professor at Diego Portales University in Santiago, believes that the new president will have difficulty enacting significant reforms.

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