Nov 23, 2021 - World

Chile's future government will fall on a political extreme

A voter casts her ballot during national elections on November 21, 2021 in Arica, Chile.
A voter casts her ballot during national elections on Nov. 21, 2021 in Arica, Chile. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Chile's centrist candidates were completely shut out in Sunday's first-round vote, which now heads to a runoff election between a far-right and a far-left candidate.

Why it matters: The outcome of the second round of voting on Dec. 19 will have repercussions for an increasingly polarized Chile and how the country's economy, which is supported by key natural resources such as copper, is handled.

The details: Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old leftist Congress member and former student leader, will face off against José Antonio Kast, an ultraconservative 55-year-old lawyer who has defended Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.

  • Kast got 27% of the votes — the most of all candidates — on Sunday.
  • Boric champions levying more taxes on companies, reforming pensions, and increasing financing and tightening regulations to try to reduce the environmental effects of state-owned mining company, Codelco.
  • Kast proposes privatizing that company and possibly raising export taxes or output royalties on copper, which could increase the metal’s price.
  • Chile is the world's largest producer of copper and second-largest of lithium, both key for electronics and for manufacturing renewable energy technologies.

Context: The Andean nation is the most economically advanced country in Latin America and the Caribbean, though it's still plagued by socioeconomic inequalities.

  • Tensions regarding those inequalities came to a head in massive protests two years ago, which led to a constitutional revision process.
  • Currently, Chile is ruled by the 1980 Constitution, drafted by the Pinochet regime and which critics say is excessively rigid for issues such as social security reforms.
  • The convention drafting a new constitution has put forth progressive proposals that might hinge on whoever is elected in December.

The big picture: Since its return to democracy in 1990, Chile has had center-left and center-right presidents. That will change with Boric or Kast.

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