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Chilean voters are split down the middle on what they want from the future Chilean voters are split down the middle on what they want from the future 

Chileans prepare to vote in disputed election

Voters in Chile again go to the polls, in a second-round runoff on Sunday, to choose their next President. In a situation of extreme polarization, the country's Catholic Bishops have condemned the belligerent climate and called for dialogue and responsibility.

By James Blears

Sunday`s runoff is between Gabriel Boric, a Social Democrat of the Aprebo Dignified Coalition, and Jose Antonio Kast of the Republican Party. Kast gained the most votes in the Election last month. But Boric was slightly ahead in the opinion polls, which closed on December 5th in the runup to round two. 

The candidates

Kast aged 55, known by his initials as JAK, who`s the son of a German immigrant,  is a lawyer and a former member of Congress. One of his brothers Miguel, served in the Pinochet era as Labor Minister and was President of Chile`s Central Bank.  Boric aged 35,  who`s of Croatian descent, studied law but never graduated. He was a student leader and is an ex-Congressman.  Kast who admires the 1973-1990 Pinochet Regime, says if General Pinochet was alive today, he`d gain his vote. But he denies being a Pinochet devotee.  A central plank of his campaign is based around law and order, cracking down on crime. He`s pledging to dig trenches to halt illegal immigration. 

Social unrest and mass street protests in 2019, led political party leaders to promise re-writing Chile`s Constitution, which was imposed by Pinochet in 1980, and this task is still underway. Kast opposes it. 

Boric supports the creation of a new Constitution and is pledging to strengthen the Welfare State based on what he terms social justice. 

 

When the people voted in a Referendum in October 2020, almost 80 percent of those who cast a vote did so in favor of re-writing the constitution. On that occasion, the Catholic Bishops of Chile released a statement affirming the result was a “great example of civility and participation,” and expressing that in the new path now undertaken by the country the citizens will have a fundamental role.

Historical backdrop

On December 16th Lucia Hiriart, the Widow of General Pinochet died aged 98.  Agusto Pinochet died aged 91 fifteen years ago. Their marriage spanned 1943 until 2006 when he died. Following a 1973 coup in which President Salvador Allende died, General Pinohet ruled until 1990, when democratic elections were held. During his leadership, more than three thousand people vanished. More than a thousand of their names will be included in this ballot listed as: "Absent due to enforced disappearance."

Both Candidates promise a new bright and fresh future for Chile. It`s now up to voters to choose in which direction they want their country to progress, with the ever-present and indelible memory of what happened back then, but fervent hope for the future. 

Listen to the report by James Blears
18 December 2021, 13:32