Chile goes to polls amid deep political polarization

Elections in wake of impeachment trial against President Sebastian Pinera, process of drafting new Constitution.

Chile goes to polls amid deep political polarization

Elections will take place Sunday in Chile and never before has the Latin American country been so divided between the right and the left.

The two leading candidates are political opposites. Jose Antonio Kast on the extreme right and Gabriel Boric on the left, who are likely to head for a runoff on Dec. 19.

Boric, a 35-year-old former student leader, represents many of the social movements behind social protests in 2019, when Chileans took to the streets to demand better health care, quality education and economic equity.

The social outburst triggered a decision to initiate a process to draft a new Constitution that led to the implementation of a referendum to define the 155 constituent members, who are mostly independents and leftist politicians.

But polls suggest that the electorate is leaning toward the right-wing candidate.

Kast, a 55-year-old lawyer and former deputy, who in the past has shown his sympathy for the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, has anti-immigration rhetoric and has spoken out against abortion.

“Two models of society are facing each other. The one that we represent, of freedom and justice, and that of the Communist Party and Gabriel Boric, a country that we do not want and that would have a safe passage to chaos, hunger and violence,” Kast said at the close of his campaign in a park in Las Condes, a high-income neighborhood in the capital of Santiago.

While Boric is labeled a "communist" by his detractors, Kast is accused of supporting former US President Donald Trump and current Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

“It is very important that we change to advance in the transformations for which we are fighting; building a state that guarantees rights, that guarantees dignity and equality is the only way to have stability, because a country that is socially fractured cannot grow,” Boric said Thursday in Casablanca.

The elections are taking place at a turbulent time when the Senate has just shelved an impeachment trial against President Sebastian Pinera for his involvement in a controversial sale of a mining company through a firm owned by his children. ​​​​​​​

Almost 15 million Chileans are called this weekend to elect Pinera's successor and to renew the entire Chamber of Deputies and half of the Senate.