Chile’s Presidential Candidates Clash in Crucial, Final Debate

Chile’s Presidential Candidates Clash in Crucial, Final Debate

Chile’s presidential candidates sparred over public safety, pensions and gender equality late on Monday during the final televised debate before this weekend’s runoff.

In an event described by investors as the last opportunity to shift the presidential race, both candidates said they would try to build larger coalitions and incorporate advisers from centrist political parties to ensure governability.  

Chile’s Presidential Candidates Clash in Crucial, Final Debate

“We want to advance toward a welfare society,” said Gabriel Boric, who’s running for the leftist Apruebo Dignidad coalition that includes groups such as the Communist Party. “The term that is used doesn’t matter. If people describe it as ‘social democracy,’ then so be it.”  

Jose Antonio Kast, the conservative candidate from the Partido Republicano who has also secured the backing of traditional right-wing parties, said Boric has constantly changed policy positions and criticized his coalition. “The Communist Party defends violence as a political tool, and I can’t understand that they are one of his allies.”

Both candidates are wooing voters who remain undecided ahead of Sunday’s highly-contested election. Kast topped last month’s first round with 28%, followed by Boric with 26%. Recent polls have shown the former student protest leader pulling ahead of his right-wing rival.

“Kast needed to secure a win, but it wasn’t absolutely clear,” said Kenneth Bunker, founder of political analysis website “Boric came out marginally on top and he didn’t make any unforced errors.”

In recent days, Kast and Boric have moderated their messages as they move toward the political center. Boric has repeated that, if elected, he will keep government debt in check and any tax increases will be gradual, while Kast has placed a greater emphasis on women’s rights and the environment.

One of the evening’s biggest surprises came when Boric showed the results of drug test he had taken, ruling out the presence of substances such as cocaine in his body. Kast had said in previous debates that Boric had refused to be tested.  

In the end, the young lower house deputy came off as more authentic, according to Marco Moreno, political analyst and head of the school of government at Universidad Central. “We’ve seen in Boric a greater capacity to recognize mistakes, and that makes him more credible,” Moreno told local news channel 24Horas.

Kast, on the other hand, tried to appear coherent and more trustworthy, said Axel Callis, director of pollster “Blows were exchanged, but a lot of major issues, such as climate change and education, weren’t even mentioned in the debate,” Callis said. “The debate didn’t do much to convince undecided voters which could move the whole election one way or the other.”

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