There are many reasons the resounding victory of Gabriel Boric, a millennial left-wing congressman, in Chile’s presidential elections will echo far beyond the borders of that Andean nation.
In times that have seen the alarming rise of authoritarianism worldwide, it is a cause for celebration that Chilean voters rejected not only Boric’s opponent, the ultraconservative faux-populist, José Antonio Kast – an admirer of the country’s former dictator, Gen. Augusto Pinochet – but also Kast’s anti-immigrant, traditionalist, anti-abortion, law-and-order message of fear and intolerance.
Just as significant globally is that my compatriots chose in Boric a leader who, at 35, will be the youngest president in Chilean history, someone who embodies the emergence of a new generation on our troubled planet. The causes he believes in are those youth everywhere have been increasingly fighting for across the globe: gender equity, the empowerment of women and indigenous peoples, an end to police brutality and neoliberal economic policies, a deepening of democracy and civil rights and, above all, urgent action on climate change.
But like militants elsewhere, Boric also faces massive obstacles in order to enact the crucial changes that, in the case of Chile, are necessary to ensure justice and dignity for the country’s neglected majority. Despite the ample margins of Boric’s win with 56 percent of the vote and the largest total in the country’s history, the road ahead will not be easy. After all, 44 percent of the electorate voted for someone as retrograde as Kast, who has, like autocrats in other nations (Trump, anyone?), sidelined and devoured the potentially liberal elements of traditional right-wing parties. And major reforms will need to be negotiated in a Congress where the radical coalition that supports the incoming president – along with allies on the center-Left – barely possess a workable majority.
Boric also confronts a country ravaged by the pandemic and a roiling economic crisis – with entrenched economic and social actors unwilling to forego their privileges, who are more than ready to sabotage attempts to redistribute power and income. Pressured by his radical base to go faster, Boric will simultaneously have to deal with calls to go slower by moderate allies required to carry out an extremely bold agenda of structural changes. There are already ominous signs from members of Chile’s financial and industrial elite – and from many milquetoast pundits – that the future president should limit his ambitious goals. Yet I remain cautiously optimistic.
Excerpted: ‘Why Chile’s Election Signals Major Shift’
Courtesy: Commondreams.orgAriel Dorfman, "Chile’s election," The News. 2021-12-28.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Presidential elections , Civil rights , Dictator , Democracy , Economy , Gen Augusto Pinochet , Gabriel Boric , Chile