Experts Discuss Chile’s Presidential Elections, Governance and the Constituent Process

December 23, 2021

The high number of people voting in Chile’s December 19 presidential election shows signs of increasing democratic health, but the winning candidate, Gabriel Boric of the left coalition Apruebo Dignidad, will see challenging times ahead, according to political observers during the last webinar hosted by the Santiago Center and the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS).

“We had the highest voter turnout since the vote became voluntary, with 2.5 million more people voting in this election,” said Carmen Le Foulon (GSAS'14), Public Opinion Coordinator at thinktank Centro de Estudios Públicos (CEP). “It seems that those who predominantly increased the electoral roll and changed the election were young people. We have to continue analyzing the results, but the biggest difference was in age and not by gender.”

The runoff election was a milestone in a larger development that began with the social protest that erupted in 2019, which led to a constitutional reform process and a profound change in the Chilean political system, noted Vicky Murillo, Director of ILAS who chaired the event.

At the same time, “the Boric government will have a difficult situation, not only because it lacks a majority in congress, but also because of [having to address] the pandemic, the economic crisis and the constituent process. This administration has four intense years ahead of it,” remarked Marcela Ríos, Assistant Resident Representative at UNDP Chile.

Meanwhile, Juan Pablo Luna, Associate Professor at Universidad Católica’s School of Government and Political Science Institute, said that the first few months of Boric’s government will be key. “If things go badly, there are likely to be complications for the exit plebiscite… One of Boric’s fundamental challenges will be to complete the constituent process successfully, after six months of government there will be an exit plebiscite with a mandatory vote in which half of the electorate is still unknown,” he said.

The panelists agreed that in terms of values, Boric is highly synchronized with the times, taking on issues including feminism, diversity, indigenous peoples and the environment.