Chile – Fascist wins first round Presidential elections

Dave Kellaway takes a look at the first round presidential election results in Chile.

 

Chilean Presidential Election results first round (second round on December 19 between top two)

JOSE ANTONIO KAST  : PARTIDO REPUBLICANO DE CHILE

27.9% 1939198 votes  (Fascist sympathiser of Pinochet)

GABRIEL BORIC  : CONVERGENCIA SOCIAL

25.8% 1792006 votes (Left wing former student leader of the 2019 mass protests)

FRANCO PARISI: PARTIDO DE LA GENTE

12.8% 891566 votes  (Political independent business man right of centre, campaigned from the USA!)

SEBASTIAN SICHEL : EVOLUCION POLITICA

12.8% 885337 votes (supporter of current right fo centre president  Pinera –traditional right of center party)

YASNA PROVOSTE: PARTIDO DEMOCRATA CRISTIANO

11.6%807377 votes  (traditional centre party, like Pinera’s party part of the Concertacion bloc governing  the post 1990 managed democratic transition)

MARCO ENRIQUEZ-OMINAMI PARTIDO PROGRESISTA DE CHILE

7.6% 528839 votes (emerged from Socialist party which was part of the Concertacion)

EDUARDO ARTES: UNION PATRIOTICA

1.5% 102069 votes (Communist party of Chile which also is supportive of Boric)

Abstention rate:56%

Many of those of a certain age in the British Labour movement remember the practical solidarity set up here following Pinochet’s fascist coup in 1973 which overthrew Allende’s progressive elected government. Up to 30,000 were killed or ‘disappeared’ in Chile. Thousands of exiles were welcomed warmly here by the labour government, the left and the trade unions. Gradually 17 years later there was a managed democratic transition led by centre right and left of centre parties (the Concertacion). This process did not really purge the fascist military or its administrators and kept intact many of the neo-liberal anti-working class policies and institutions. In 2019 the whole nature of the transition was challenged by a student rebellion which later spread to the whole population. The police and army responded violently, dozens were killed and a number of people lost an eye or were blinded by rubber bullets. An agreement to hold a referendum on writing a new constitution and the COVID pandemic meant the uprising subsided. The people voted overwhelming for a new Constitutional convention and then in 2021 elected a majority of progressive, feminist and indigenous representatives to that assembly.

Yesterday’s presidential elections confirmed a continued marginalisation of the mainstream Concertacion parties and an affirmation of the left and progressive forces which have a majority in the convention. However the new element is the success of a Pinochet defender, Jose Kast, as the winner of the first round. Boric, who was a student leader in 2019 and subsequently became an MP, is only two points behind. However the polls had him ahead before the vote and in all the elections since 1990 the winner in the first round was confirmed in the second.  Nevertheless it is still all to play for since none of the usual mainstream parties made it to the second round and only 44% voted, less than in previous presidential elections.  Although it is assumed that the USA based candidate, Parisi, will support Kast, his votes given the lack of definition of his politics, might not all transfer to the fascist.

It is worth getting a flavour of the threat posed by Kast. Here is his post vote declaration:

I am the  only candidate that can secure peace, that can stand up to the criminals, delinquents and the narco-traffic gangs and that can end terrorism. Gabriel Boric and the Communist Party want to link up with the terrorists and assassins and have never been on the side of the victims of terrorism and criminals.

(El Pais 22.11.21, my translation)
Jose Antonio Kast

Kast stands full square behind the neo-liberal policies of the so-called Chilean ‘miracle’ which have resulted in massive inequality, low wages, privatised pensions, welfare and education. He is against abortion rights, gay marriage, indigenous rights for the Mapuche and wants to set up a physical barrier in the north (think Trumps wall) to stop migrants. Unsurprisingly he is a fan of the previous US President Donald Trump, President Bolsonaro in Brazil and the Vox fascist group in the Spanish state. He hopes to negotiate an agreement with Sichel before the second round. The latter has already said he cannot vote for the far left Boric and is willing to discuss with Kast.  

Clearly both the state’s repressive response to the 2019 mobilisations and the way capitalist extreme inequality breeds crime, provides Kast with a basis for portraying himself as the defender of security and law and order. Racism against the indigenous minority also can win over less radicalised voters. As with other hard right populists Kast wins votes outside the metropolitan areas in the rural areas and small towns. The rich and the better off middle class also fear the redistributive policies of Boric. All those years of the Pinochet regime and then the tepid changes of the transition have meant that those social layers who gained in those years are willing to support Kast’s politics – particularly if the traditional right of centre parties no longer seem able to see off the left.

We should not let Kast’s success blind us to the breakthrough represented by Boric’s votes. His policies to increase state intervention in the economy such as ending privatised pensions or his defence of women’s, gay and indigenous rights are more radical than the left of centre parties’ traditional positions. 

Although Kast represents what we have identified on this site as a form of creeping fascism we also see progressive, left counter tendencies developing in a number of countries with different degrees of radicalism. Just across the border in Argentina the Trotskyist led, Workers Left Front FIT just won a million votes and four MPs. It is now the third national political tendency. In Bolivia we saw the return of a pro-Morales government team and Lula is looking a good bet to replace Bolsanaro. The victory of these new hard right or fascist currents is not inevitable. In Chile Boric certainly expresses a radical riposte to the rise of the fascist right.

Boric is faced with some difficult tactical choices if he is to extend his support sufficiently to win the second round. He has already acknowledged that he has to listen and respond to public concerns on violence and insecurity. Winning votes outside the metropolitan areas has to be one area to work on.  How far should he negotiate with Provoste, the Christian Democrat, who said she cannot vote for Kast?  Are their concessions that could be made? It is difficult to judge these issues from here. A fascist led Kast government would make it even more difficult to develop a socialist political alternative. As long as certain lines were not crossed some adjustment of policy may well be a price worth paying to stop Kast and get a government that can begin to roll back the privatised economy and protect people’s living standards. 

At the same time there are 56% of voters who did not turn out in the first round. Continuing a radical, dynamic, popular campaign could win enough of those votes to make a difference. Another dilemma is how far do you focus your electioneering on pinning the pro-Pinochet label on Kast and how far do you emphasise the positive social changes you want to bring about? Clearly Kast has the advantage that whole sections of the capitalist mass media will amplify his own accusations that Boric is pro-communist and pro-violence.

Many of the commentators in the Spanish language press have highlighted the polarisation of Chilean society reflected in these elections. It is a conflict over the very direction and model of our societies today. If Kast were to win there would be a constitutional conflict between the President and the probable outcome of the constitutional convention.

Pinochet tried to physically eliminate the left and the labour movement. The moderate parties of the democratic transitions tried to paper over the contradictions of Chilean society. Eventually the struggle of working people – including in all their diversity as women, gays, indigenous – against a capitalist system that makes them poorer, unhealthier and is destroying the planet, will always re-ignite.  Let us hope they can win a victory on December 19.


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Dave Kellaway is on the Editorial Board of Anti*Capitalist Resistance, a member of Socialist Resistance, and Hackney and Stoke Newington Labour Party, a contributor to International Viewpoint and Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres.

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