Leftist to become Chile’s youngest ever president after beating far-right rival

A leftist former student leader has stormed to a resounding victory to become Chile’s president-elect.

With nearly 97% of the vote already counted, Gabriel Boric claimed 55.8% to take a 12 percentage point lead over his far-right opponent, José Antonio Kast, an ultra-conservative father of nine, who quickly accepted his defeat and called Boric to congratulate him.

Boric declared to a vast crowd packed into a Santiago boulevard: “The times ahead will not be easy.”

He paused only to lead the crowd in chants or smile up at the fireworks exploding overhead.

“Only with social cohesion, re-finding ourselves and sharing common ground will we be able to advance towards truly sustainable development – which reaches every Chilean,” Boric said.

His relative inexperience was regularly highlighted by his rivals, but on Sunday night Boric was fluent and assured as he reiterated his campaign pledges before the raucous crowd of supporters.

He thanked each candidate in turn – including Kast – and reinforced his commitment to Chile’s constitutional process, a key consideration for many as the country embarks upon this latest chapter in a turbulent period of transition.

“Just, truth and respect,” Boric said as he signed off to deafening cheers. “We will continue.”

Kast said earlier outside his campaign headquarters: “Gabriel Boric can count on us.”

The air on Sunday night was split by the sound of car horns and the jubilant chants of Boric’s supporters, who thronged the street corners, plazas and wide boulevards of downtown Santiago.

“This is such a massive win – I still can’t quite believe it!” exclaimed Communist party congresswoman Karol Cariola outside Boric’s campaign hub in downtown Santiago.

With Boric failing to gain ground across much of the country in the first-round vote on 21 November, which he lost to Kast by two percentage points, Cariola was instrumental in overturning the deficit as part of a series of nationwide tours which sought to visit 1m homes the length of the country.

But on a sweltering day in Chile, voting was marred by public transport difficulties across the country, although the government claimed it had done everything in its power to guarantee voters could reach polling stations.

Boric, who comes from Punta Arenas in the far south of Chile, has enjoyed a meteoric rise from student politics to be the next occupant of La Moneda, Chile’s presidential palace.

He has changed his image markedly since his participation in 2011’s student movement, emerging from a group of young student politicians to serve two terms in the national congress before running for the presidency.

At 35, he will become Chile’s youngest ever president when he is sworn in on 11 March.

His term lasts until 2026 and will encompass a period of social and political transformation for the country, which is currently rewriting its constitution – the result of mass anti-inequality protests which exploded in October 2019.

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