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News > Chile

Political Forces Shaping Chile’s 2021 Presidential Race

  • Ahead of the general elections in Chile on November 21, we look at the leading presidential candidates, their backgrounds and their proposals to address the various issues the country faces this November.

    Ahead of the general elections in Chile on November 21, we look at the leading presidential candidates, their backgrounds and their proposals to address the various issues the country faces this November. | Photo: Twitter @peoplesdispatch

Published 17 November 2021

Chileans vote in general elections on November 21. If no candidate receives a majority, the top two will face each other in a December 19 runoff. 

Chilean voters voiced two notable preferences in July's primaries: youth and political moderation. In July 18 primaries, Gabriel Boric and Sebastián Sichel beat out competitors who were older and farther to the left and right, respectively.


Chile: Presidential Candidates Debate Their Policy Proposals

When the March 2022 inauguration rolls around, polling frontrunner Boric could become Chile's youngest president ever at 36 years old. Sichel, at 44 years, would be the youngest in 170 years. Presidents in Chile serve four-year terms.

There are seven official candidates in the 2021 presidential race. We profile the top six and their political background and proposals. Since August, each of the first four has garnered 10 percent or more in at least two major polls.

Gabriel Boric
Approve Dignity coalition

Gabriel Boric, the top runner on the left, is the candidate for the left-wing Approve Dignity coalition, of the Social Convergence party. Though polls put Daniel Jadue in the lead for the Approve Dignity primary, Boric bested the popular Recoleta mayor and Communist Party member.

The Apruebo Dignidad leftist coalition decided its presidential candidate in the publicly-funded primaries held nationwide on July 18, 2021, which was won by lawmaker Gabriel Boric by 60% of the vote.

On March 17, 2021, Boric's party, Social Convergence, proclaimed him its presidential candidate. The Commons Party's leadership also announced on March 17, 2021, that it would propose Boric as its presidential candidate in a meeting of the party's leadership the following Saturday. On March 23, 2021, Democratic Revolution, the coalition's largest party, proclaimed him as its presidential candidate.

Boric first rose to prominence as a leader of Chile's 2011 student protests, a movement that sought free university tuition and drew attention to inequality in Chilean higher education. In 2013, he was elected as an independent to represent the Magallanes and Antarctic regions in Chile's lower house of Congress as the only candidate outside of the then-two-party system. He was reelected in 2017 and is now a member of the progressive Social Convergence Party within the Broad Front bloc in Congress.

Hailing from Chile's Punta Arenas in Tierra del Fuego, Boric advocates for government decentralization and the environment. He proposes overhauling Chile's pension system and scrapping the current system of private fund administrators, known as AFPs, as well as introducing a progressive tax reform that would increase corporate taxes. 

His platform also is pitching police reform, an expansion of social services like universal health insurance, and environmentally friendly economic solutions. Though he is considered to be further to the left than competitor Yasna Provoste, Boric has a history of negotiating across the aisle in Congress and bucked his own party's legislators in November 2019 to sign an agreement with conservatives to kick off the process of Chile's constitutional rewrite. 

José Antonio Kast

Christian Social Front Coalition

The Christian Social Front is a far-right Chilean electoral coalition formally created on August 6, 2021, between the Republican Party and the Christian Conservative Party for the 2021 elections.

Polling at around 10 percent and with nominal upward momentum in September surveys, Kast's CV includes a law degree from and academic work at the Catholic University of Chile and time as a city councilman and later representative in Congress for the city of Buin. He came in fourth in the 2017 presidential election with 7.9 percent of the vote. 

His most prominent proposals include strong support for security forces, particularly following the 2019 social protests, and stricter immigration policies. Kast, 55, opposed the movement to rewrite the Constitution. On the political spectrum, he falls farther to the right than Sichel and has gone as far as defending the Pinochet dictatorship by saying that on the day of the 1973 coup, Chileans "chose liberty."

After the results obtained in the mega elections of May 2021, José Antonio Kast discarded the idea of making a presidential primary together with Chile Vamos while several of the ruling party discussed whether the incorporation of the Republican Party harmed them more than favoring them and whether it was prudent to continue with the pact called "Vamos por Chile" in presidential primaries and in the parliamentary elections.

Finally, on August 6, 2021, the Christian Conservative Party, together with the Republican Party and independents, registered with the Chilean Electoral Service the pact «Christian Social Front» for the parliamentary elections of November of that same year, while in the elections of regional councilors they will each go on an individual list.

Yasna Provoste
New Social Pact Coalition

New Social Pact (Spanish: Nuevo Pacto Social; NPS), formerly Constituent Unity, is a political alliance in Chile. It includes the former members of the Concentration of Parties for Democracy (the Christian Democratic Party, Radical Party, Socialist Party, and Party for Democracy), plus the Progressive Party and Citizens.

This alliance was created in light of the municipal, regional and Constitutional Convention elections, held in May 2021. For the municipal elections, the alliance ran as two lists: Unity for the Approval (including the former members of Progressive Convergence: PS, PPD and PR) and Unity for Dignity (PDC, PRO and Citizens).

The only woman and person of indigenous heritage running for president in this cycle, Senate President Provoste is wedged in a tight spot, battling with Boric for the left's vote and with her former party-mate Sichel for the center. A lifelong Christian Democrat, she beat out two other candidates to win the center-left's August primary with 60 percent of the vote. She's generally holding steady in third in polls behind Sichel and ahead of Kast.

Once a physical education teacher, Provoste, 51, got her start in regional politics in the late 1990s. In 2004, she jumped to the national government, serving for two years as planning minister in the Ricardo Lagos administration and later as President Michelle Bachelet's education minister. She became a deputy in 2014, a senator in 2018, and then the upper house president in 2021.

Rather than the overhaul pledged by Boric, Provoste proposes instead to reform the current pension system. In contrast to Sichel's proposals to expand state security forces, she plans "profound reforms "for the national police force, known as the carabineros, who came under scrutiny for alleged abuses during the 2019 protests.

Sebastián Sichel
Podemos Más Coalition

The Chile Podemos Más center-right coalition (previously Chile Vamos) participated in the publicly-funded primaries held nationwide on July 18, 2021. Former minister Sebastián Sichel beat the other three candidates by 49% of the vote.

Sichel was minister of Social Development and president of BancoEstado during the second administration of President Sebastián Piñera. He participated as an independent candidate in the Chile Podemos Más primary, supported by former PDC supporters and other centrist political movements.

Sichel, 43, is an independent candidate running on the governing coalition's ticket who has yet to hold elected office. He has run twice unsuccessfully for Congress as a member of the Christian Democratic party in 2009 and 2013 after two years as a subdirector in the state tourism promotion agency during the Bachelet administration. 

Two years later, he joined the Citizen Party steered by former Bachelet cabinet member Andrés Velasco but then backed Sebastián Piñera in the 2017 runoff. Piñera, in turn, named Sichel as a vice president for the state trade promotion agency in 2018 before making him his social development minister the following year and then president of the public bank in 2020. In between his public roles, he worked in the private sector as an executive for various communications firms.

In contrast to Piñera, Sichel supported the vote to rewrite the Constitution. He won the July 18 Let's Go Chile primary with 49 percent of the vote, placing him 18 points ahead of his closest competitor.

As president, Sichel proposes to make the government more efficient by, among other things, folding a third of the current 24 ministries into others, while adding two: an interior security ministry that would fight crime and drug trafficking, as well as a ministry that would focus on improving public administration. 

Sichel supports free-market economic policies and also progressive social policies, such as same-sex marriage and adoption. Though polling behind Boric, Sichel has the support of groups within the Chilean right-wing political establishment. Sichel, who grew up in a relatively unstable and impoverished home, also promises support for childhood food programs, housing, and mental health services.

Eduardo Artes
Patriotic Union

Patriotic Union is a Chilean political party. It was founded in September 2015 and is led by Eduardo Artés, first secretary of the Chilean Communist Party (Proletarian Action).

Legally registered in 2016, it first appeared in the municipal elections of that year. The party obtained 0.32% of the total votes but no candidates were elected to any council. It was declared as an anti-imperialist party, progressive, patriotic and populism.

Eduardo Artes is a Marxist-Leninist educator and politician of the Patriotic Union and first secretary of the Chilean Communist Party (Proletarian Action). He confirmed his candidacy in June 2021, and had already ran for president unsuccessfully in 2017.

Marco Enriquez Ominami
Progressive Party

The Progressive Party is a political party in Chile. It was founded in 2010 by former Socialist deputy and presidential candidate Marco Enriquez-Ominami. It is the political successor of the coalition New Majority for Chile.

The political party is composed of Enriquez-Ominami supporters in the presidential campaign of 2009, former members of the Concertación and other leftist political movements. After a process of collecting signatures, was enrolled in some regions.

Ominami is a three-time presidential candidate and represents a social democratic group of former lawmakers who continually appear on the ballot, with little luck.

The congressional context
Chileans will also vote for all 155 deputies in the lower house and half of the 50 Senate seats in November. Deputies serve four-year terms and can be reelected twice, while senators serve eight and can win reelection once.

Although the governing coalition, Let's Go Chile, holds slim majorities in both houses in the current legislative session, its bloc suffered a setback in May when it failed to secure a third of seats in the Constituent Assembly that is currently debating and drafting a new Constitution. Though some polls show Sichel's Let's Go Chile's support on par with Boric's Broad Front in Congress, others indicate that voters identify with the left-wing blocs in greater numbers.

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