Former student leader Boric vows to ‘expand social rights’ in the country, but with ‘fiscal responsibility’
The streets of Santiago erupted in celebration on Sunday after leftist millennial Gabriel Boric became Chile’s youngest-ever President-elect with an unexpectedly large victory over his far-right rival in a polarising race.
Mr. Boric, 35, garnered nearly 56% of the vote compared to 44% for ultra-conservative Jose Antonio Kast, who conceded even before the final result was known.
Tens of thousands of Chileans took to the streets of the capital and other cities after Mr. Kast’s concession, honking car horns in approval, brandishing pro-Boric placards, waving the rainbow LGBTQ flag and shouting: “Viva Chile!”
Fireworks lit the skies for hours on end.
“I’m thrilled, I am crying with joy. We dealt a blow to fascism!” pharmacy worker Jennie Enriquez, 45, said.
“I am happy because there are going to be many changes that will help the people and the working class,” added construction worker Luis Astorga, 58.
Mr. Boric had campaigned on the promise of installing a “social welfare” state, increasing taxes and social spending in a country with one of the world’s largest gaps between rich and poor.
Branded a “communist” by his detractors, he vowed in his first official address on Sunday to “expand social rights” in Chile, but to do so with “fiscal responsibility.”
“We will do it protecting our macro-economy, we will do it well… to improve pensions and healthcare,” he said.
Mr. Kast congratulated Mr. Boric, who leads an alliance that includes Chile’s Communist Party, “on his great triumph.” “From today on, he is the President-elect of Chile and he deserves all our respect and constructive cooperation. Chile always comes first.”
Mr. Kast is an apologist for brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet and his neo-liberal economic model, credited with Chile’s relative wealth but blamed for its deep-rooted social inequality.
He opposes same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion, and had initially pledged to close the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, a promise he later rowed back on.
According to a projection by Chile’s Servel election body, turnout was more than 55% — a record since voting became voluntary in 2012.
Mr. Boric won by a margin of nearly a million ballots out of 8.3 million cast by 15 million eligible voters.
“Clearly more young people came out, it seems clear… that Boric managed to mobilise the segment that is more difficult to mobilise, which is the segment of young people,” Claudia Heiss of the University of Chile said.
“All (Kast’s) anti-rights, anti-women, anti-gay speech, I think it helped mobilise that young segment,” Ms. Heiss added.
The new President will face the difficult task of healing a society reeling from a polarising campaign replete with antagonistic attacks and fake news onslaughts.