SANTIAGO, (AFP):- The Chilean stock market and peso took a beating Monday after leftist millennial Gabriel Boric became the country’s youngest-ever president-elect with an unexpectedly substantial victory over his far-right rival.
Following a night of street celebrations at the end of a polarizing runoff race, the SP IPSA index opened 6.83 percent down, before regaining some ground.
The peso ceded 3.02 percent to the US dollar to open the day at a historic high of 872.61.
In November, the IPSA index gained more than nine percent when far-right fiscal conservative Jose Antonio Kast came out on top in the first election round.
The peso rebounded then by 3.5 percent to 800 to the dollar.
Boric, 35, garnered nearly 56 percent of the vote compared to 44 percent for 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 to celebrate Boric’s victory, 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.
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 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 health care,” he said.
– ‘Great triumph’ –
Kast congratulated Boric, who leads an alliance that includes Chile’s Communist Party, on a “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.”
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 percent — a record since voting became voluntary in 2012.
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 mobilize the segment that is more difficult to mobilize, which is the segment of young people,” Claudia Heiss of the University of Chile told AFP.
“All (Kast’s) anti-rights, anti-women, anti-gay speech, I think it helped mobilize that young segment,” she added.
The new president will face the difficult task of healing a society reeling from a polarizing campaign replete with antagonistic attacks and misinformation onslaughts.
For a country that has voted centrist since the democratic ousting of Pinochet 31 years ago, it was a stark choice between two polar opposite political outsiders.
Boric on Sunday reiterated his plans for “a more humane Chile, a more dignified Chile, a more egalitarian Chile.”
– ‘President of all Chileans’ –
Congratulations poured in from elsewhere in Latin America, from Brazil’s ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Cuban leader Miguel Diaz-Canel and Argentina’s Alberto Fernandez on the left, to right-wing presidents Ivan Duque of Colombia and Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador.
Boric’s Frente Amplio (Broad Front) has never been in government.
Chile is going through profound change after voting overwhelmingly last year in favor of drawing up a new constitution to replace the one enacted in the Pinochet years.
The 2020 referendum was in response to an anti-inequality social uprising in 2019 that left dozens dead.
The drafting process, in the hands of a largely left-leaning body elected in May, must yield a constitution for approval next year, on the new president’s watch.
Boric will be inaugurated in March next year.
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