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Chile’s right- and left-wing blocs hold primary elections for presidential election today

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Chileans will go to the polls Sunday, July 18, for the fifth time this year, this time to select the presidential candidates for the elections to be held in November 21. Both the right-wing and the left-wing blocs of parties will have several candidates, but the center-left bloc will not participate, as it has not yet revealed its slate.

In the “Chile Vamos” coalition, made up of the four conservative parties with which Chilean President Sebastián Piñera governs, all the polls point to Joaquín Lavín, a familiar name in national politics, as the favorite.

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For Lavin, a member of the ultra-conservative Independent Democratic Union (UDI) and mayor of the wealthy Santiago neighborhood of Las Condes in 1992-1996 and 2016-2021, this is the third time he has tried to reach the presidency, after the attempts in 1999 and 2006.

Despite being a member of Opus Dei and being against abortion and same-sex marriage – two issues currently being debated in Parliament – Lavín presents himself as a “dialoguing” option and defends the incorporation of “concepts of European social democracy”.

Also well positioned is the independent Sebastián Sichel, who was former Minister of Social Development under Piñera and a former President of Banco Estado. He asserts that his having passed through several parties of the political spectrum, including the Christian Democracy (DC), makes him the only “center” candidate.

, Chile’s right- and left-wing blocs hold primary elections for presidential election today

Those who are further away in the polls are also former Piñera ministers Mario Desbordes (Defense) and Ignacio Briones (Finance), from Renovación Nacional (RN), and Evópoli, respectively.


Daniel Jadue, the mayor of the Santiago neighborhood of Recoleta between 2012 and 2021, is the communist party candidate with the most presidential projection in decades.

With a harsh discourse against the elite and roots among Chileans who massively demonstrate in 2019, Jadue is an advocate of a stronger State and ending the neoliberal model installed in the military dictatorship (1973-1990).

Backed by his popular municipal administration, he led the polls by a considerable distance for weeks. Still, in recent days he began to lose steam, mainly after his lukewarm positions on the uprisings in Cuba.

Jadue will face Gabriel Boric from the Frente Amplio (FA), a bloc of left-wing parties that emerged after the student protests of 2006 and 2011 and that has a more encompassing proposal for change than the communist.

“It is a more competitive primary than on the right, and the result depends on the turnout. If it is low, Jadue wins, but if a lot of people come out to vote, Boric will benefit,” said Julieta Suárez-Cao, of the Catholic University.

The traditional center-left parties could not agree to register a common candidacy to be absent from the primaries. Their presidential ticket will not be put to a popular vote.

Everything points to the fact that the president of the Senate, the Christian Democrat Yasna Provoste, will announce his run before the deadline of August 23. Still, the big unknown is whether she will receive backing from the Socialist Party (PS), which is, in theory, opting for Paula Narváez, who was a spokesperson in the second term of Michelle Bachelet (2014-2018).


In the primaries – a person who does not belong to any party can vote in any of the blocs. Those who are actively part of the participating coalitions can only vote within their bloc, while militants of parties that do not run in the primaries, such as DC or PS, cannot participate.

Losers in both coalitions will not be able to run as independents in the November elections.

Low turnout – which could occur Sunday due to the pandemic, election fatigue, and a Friday holiday – is an endemic problem since Chile stopped having compulsory voting in 2012. No election has exceeded 50%, except the October plebiscite, when it was decided to change the Constitution.

“The turnout in this vote cannot be compared with other national or municipal elections since only two political conglomerates are measured. It is going to be low,” said Mario Herrera of the University of Talca.

In the 2013 primaries, almost three million Chileans went to vote, while four years later, the figure dropped to 1.8 million.

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