World Insights: Chile's traditional parties routed in first-round presidential election following social unrest

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SANTIAGO, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- Traditional political parties fared poorly in the first round of Chile's presidential election as voters sought new leadership in the wake of violent anti-government protests exploding in October 2019.

Neither of the two leading candidates that will compete in a Dec. 19 runoff belongs to the long-standing conservative or progressive camps having ruled the South American country for the past 30 years.

The first-round vote brought to the fore right-wing candidate Jose Antonio Kast Rist and his leftist rival Gabriel Boric Font, while ruling party candidate Sebastian Sichel and center-left hopeful Yasna Provoste Campillay ranked fourth and fifth, respectively.

Surprisingly, Chilean business engineer and economist Franco Parisi, a candidate of the People's Party who did not set foot in Chile during the entire campaign, came third in the first round.

"This is a reflection of what has happened in recent times, a reflection of the social unrest," Mario Herrera, a member of the Faculty of Legal and Social Sciences at the University of Talca, told Xinhua.

Herrera noted that although more political parties participated in the election, leading to a "certain fragmentation" of the vote, the leading two candidates did well by moderating their speeches.

"These candidates perhaps come from opposite ends (of the political spectrum) but for the first round and especially for the runoff, they are trying to cater to centrist voters," Herrera said.

Kast, a member of Chile's ultra-conservative Republican Party, won 27.91 percent of the vote with a government program on law and order, strict anti-immigration measures and the downsizing of the state.

Boric of the Approve Dignity coalition garnered 25.83 percent of the vote by pledging to upend the neoliberal system in the country, raise taxes on the very rich through a program akin to that of some European countries, and address the demands of Chileans in the 2019 protests.

"It seems paradoxical that the candidate leading this first presidential round would be a right-wing candidate after the outbreak of social unrest," said Herrera.

That is because Chile is "a mostly moderate country, with certain symptoms of expanding democracy, with low confidence in institutions, and a notable lack of interest in politics," he said.

The country is again sliding towards the same social situation that sparked the protests in 2019, Herrera warned.

However, he noted that some good came out of the protests, as "the social unrest led to ... certain changes and transformations," such as the establishment of a constituent convention to draft a new and more democratic constitution.

According to Pamela Figueroa, a political scientist and member of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Santiago, whoever takes office will have to grapple with a fragmented Congress that will make governing a challenge.

"It's most likely that we will have a government that does not have a majority in Congress, which generates tension due to the obstacles put up by the two powers," said Figueroa. Enditem

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