Chile’s Conservative Candidate Rises to Tie in Presidential Race
Chile’s conservative candidate Jose Antonio Kast is at a statistical tie with the left-wing frontrunner Gabriel Boric in a poll tracking voters’ intentions in the country’s upcoming presidential election.
Kast, who is running for Chile’s Republican Party, received 21% support in a survey by local pollster Cadem released Sunday, while Boric held 20%. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
The right-wing candidate’s fast ascent in the polls came as his center-right competitor, Sebastian Sichel, faced a drop in popularity and is now lingering in the fourth place.
The divided poll makes it likely that none of the candidates would be able to clinch the 50% of the vote needed on Nov. 21 to avoid a runoff. Power is up for grabs as the traditional coalition headed by current president Sebastian Pinera has struggled to retain the backing of the public.
Boric, who until recently was the clear frontrunner, has seen his popularity slip from a height of 25% in mid-September, according to the poll. That has given a window to Kast, who has called for lowering taxes and and reducing the size of the government, and whose comments on abortion and homosexuality have made him a standard-bearer for social conservatism.
Boric’s coalition represents a skepticism of the free-market policies that have led Chile to enjoy higher rates of foreign investment than other Latin American countries at the expense of a vast economic inequality. He captured the attention of the public with his position against the status quo, at a time when disapproval of Pinera, a billionaire economist, reached 79% in the Cadem poll.
Sichel’s support fell from 24% in early August to 7% in Sunday’s poll, in part because of the revelation that he had criticized a bill to allow Chileans to take out pension savings after he had taken funds out of his own account in an earlier round of withdrawals.
If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in the first round, a runoff will be held on Dec. 19.
The Cadem poll surveyed 706 adults by telephone between Oct. 13 and Oct. 14 with a 95% confidence rating.