(Adds quote, updates market reaction)
SANTIAGO, Nov 22 (Reuters) - After years of divisive street
protests and the election of a mainly left-wing body to rewrite
the constitution, Chileans surprised analysts, markets and even
themselves on Sunday night by favoring https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/chileans-head-polls-with-two-radically-different-visions-ballot-2021-11-21
a right-wing presidential candidate and delivering significant
gains to conservatives in Congress.
With 99.99% of votes counted as of Monday,
ultra-conservative former congressman Jose Antonio Kast had won
27.91%, and leftist lawmaker Gabriel Boric had come in second,
with 25.83%. As both fell well short of the 50% threshold needed
to win outright, they will now advance to a Dec. 19 runoff.
Kast, who has pledged https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/chiles-bosolonaro-hard-right-kast-rises-targeting-crime-violence-2021-11-22
to crack down on crime and illegal immigration, appears to have
the momentum, though Boric can still eke out a victory if he
wins over enough centrists, analysts said.
Still, the results of congressional elections may make the
radical changes to Chile's free-market model that Boric has
out of reach. Leftist and center-left coalitions lost
significant ground in both the upper and lower houses, and no
coalition is expected to emerge with a functioning majority.
"It's going to be very difficult for any of the two major
coalitions in the Senate to pass legislation," said Kenneth
Bunker, head of political consultancy Tresquintos.
"For the conservative sectors, this is not a problem as they
are in favor of the status quo, but for the opposition it is
very bad news."
Just six months ago https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/chile-ruling-coalition-heading-disappointment-constitutional-delegates-vote-2021-05-17,
Chileans had favored left-wing independents when selecting
representatives to the body charged with rewriting the nation's
dictatorship-era constitution. Boric, a 35-year-old who rose to
fame leading student protests, has thrown his support behind the
But crime fears, ongoing confrontations between police and
separatist indigenous groups in the nation's south and fatigue
with continued protests and disorder in what is traditionally
one of Latin America's most stable countries likely played a
role in the swing to the right, analysts said.
"What's happening in the south, combined with crime and the
general idea of change without really knowing what changes will
be made caused a significant portion of the population to turn
against Boric," said Miguel Angel Lopez, a professor at the
University of Chile.
While some recent opinion polls had shown Kast gaining
ground, many Chileans and political observers did not expect him
to do as well as he did, given the country's leftward turn in
"It seems sad to me, sad after everything that has happened
to the country," Salvador Carrasco, a musician in central
Santiago, said on Monday morning.
Chile's benchmark IPSA equities index was up over
10%, while the country's peso currency gained ground
against the dollar overnight.
The rally in the peso was due to relief that Congress was
split, which will act as a moderating force if Boric wins, said
Mary-Therese Barton, Head of Emerging Debt at Pictet Asset
"Markets' first reaction has certainly been positive. It's
less to do with the presidential side and more to do with
Congress," she said.
In the presidential runoff, eyes will now be on how
successful both candidates will be at winning voters outside
their traditional bases of support. Five failed candidates
between them garnered some 46% of votes that are now up for
Perhaps the biggest mystery will be how those who voted for
libertarian economist Franco Parisi will cast their votes.
Parisi, who lives in Alabama and never set foot in Chile during
the campaign, surprised many by finishing third with 12.8% of
"The Parisi voter is neither on the Left nor the Right,"
said Guillermo Holzmann, a professor at the University of
"This is a vote that will need a lot of analysis."
(Reporting by Gram Slattery, Natalia A. Ramos Miranda and
Fabian Cambero, Additional reporting by Reuters TV, Editing by
William Maclean and Rosalba O'Brien)