After winning a presidential runoff election on Sunday, leftist and former student leader Gabriel Boric, 35, will become Chile’s youngest president since the country’s return to democracy in 1990.
Boric received 55.87 percent of the vote with 99.95 percent of ballots counted, defeating his right-wing opponent, Jose Antonio Kast, who received 44.13 percent, according to the Chilean Electoral Service. On March 11, Boric will be sworn in as President.
Kast had conceded the election to Boric earlier in the day, congratulating his opponent “on his great triumph.”
“From today he is the elected President of Chile and deserves all our respect and constructive collaboration. Chile is always first ” Kast sent out a tweet.
President-elect Boric praised Chileans in a speech to supporters at his campaign headquarters on Sunday night.
“I want to begin this historical moment which is tremendously exciting, and that the eyes of Chile and the world are watching, thanking all Chileans who went to vote, honoring their commitment to democracy,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter if you did it for me or my opponent; the important thing is that you did it, you were present, you showed your commitment to this country that belongs to each of you.”
“Chileans have given an example of democracy, you were part of that, I congratulate you,” said outgoing Chilean President Sebastian Pinera earlier in the evening.
Celebrations in Santiago, Chile’s capital, were captured on video by CNN Chile on Sunday evening, with people waving banners and flags in support of Boric.
Boric and Kast, who represent polar differences in Chile’s presidential contest, emerged as the two leading candidates after a general election on November 21.
Kast received 28% of the vote, falling short of the 50% threshold required to avoid a runoff. Boric came in second place with 25% of the vote.
Kast has been likened to former US President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro since he is an ardent supporter of previous dictator General Augusto Pinochet’s government and the free market. The 55-year-old former congressman’s platform includes a corporate tax cut, the construction of barricades in northern Chile to prevent illegal migrants from entering, and the repeal of abortion.
Boric, on the other hand, was a student leader in Chile’s capital 10 years ago, rallying alongside thousands of students against the country’s privatised education system.
This election comes two years after the country was rocked by large protests and riots in October 2019, with protestors demanding better pensions, better education, and the end of an economic system that they claim favours the wealthy.
As a result of the upheaval, now-former President Pinera agreed to hold a referendum to amend the constitution, which was passed down from Pinochet’s violent dictatorship. Chileans overwhelmingly chose to draught a new one last year. The new constitution will be voted on in a plebiscite sometime in mid-2022, and the process is now underway.
Chile, on the other hand, has yet to reclaim the stability for which it was once recognised. The pandemic has taken a toll on the economy, and violent skirmishes between demonstrators and security personnel occur on a weekly basis in Santiago.
Boric was largely regarded as the presidential candidate who best reflected the country’s social movement in the recent past. He supports abortion rights and the welfare state model, and he leads a broad coalition that includes the Communist Party of Chile.
Boric congratulated Chilean women for “organized themselves throughout the nation to defend the rights that have cost them so much to achieve, from things as basic as the right to vote that some dared to question to the right to decide over their own body,” after his victory on Sunday.
“I want to tell you, count on us, you will be protagonists of our government,” he added, declaring himself “President of All Chileans” to the country.
Boric has had a “an amazing, meteoric political career,” according to analyst Robert Funk of the University of Chile, who rose from student leader to President-elect.
“It’s a very clear mandate from Chilean voters,” Funk said. “His party, his message, really shows the desire — and the fact that Chilean’s voted for that — shows a desire for change for a more modern Chile.”
Reactions to Boric’s victory
Latin American and Caribbean leaders congratulated the new President-elect.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez sent a statement on Twitter, saying, “Warm congratulations to @gabrielboric for his election as President of Chile in a historic popular victory. We ratify the will to expand bilateral relations and cooperation between both peoples and governments .”
Colombian President Ivan Duque also expressed his gratitude through Twitter, writing, “We express our interest in continuing to work together to strengthen the historic and fraternal bilateral relationship that unites us. We are sister countries.”
Presidents Pedro Castillo of Peru, Luis Arce of Bolivia, Luis Lacalle Pou of Uruguay, and Carlos Alvarado of Costa Rica have all congratulated the new leader on Twitter.