Outsider Candidates Upend Chile Politics and Unnerve Investors

Chilean politics are in upheaval as a new generation of leaders challenges the parties that have led the country for 30 years. Primaries for November’s presidential election will indicate if that change could reach the very top of the state.

Six candidates registered for the July 18 primaries ahead of a midnight deadline last night. Right-wing contenders include a former minister turned critic of current President Sebastian Pinera, and a political heavyweight who’s already competed twice for the nation’s top job. On the left, aspirants include a Communist Party mayor, and a 35-year-old former student protest leader.

Uncertainty is running high as the South American nation nears the presidential vote while simultaneously starting on a new constitution. Many establishment candidates got trounced in last weekend’s elections, which put the writing of the new charter largely in the hand of independents and left-wing parties. The unexpected results have forced politicians to reevaluate their strategies.

CHILE INSIGHT: Assembly Makeup Shakes Up Constitution Rewrite

In a last-minute twist, some left-wing parties didn’t tap a nominee for the primaries, yet still may put forth a candidate for a direct presidential bid. Here’s a guide to the main contenders vying to become the next head of state:

Daniel Jadue

  • Age 53, is a Communist Party member, and has served as the mayor of Recoleta, a working-class district in Santiago, since 2012.
  • He is the grandson of Palestinian immigrants, and has also served as an adviser for labor unions in mining and salmon industries.
  • Jadue has called for less central bank autonomy and a greater government role in the economy, and he has accused Pinera of human rights abuses during a period of social unrest.

Mario Desbordes

Outsider Candidates Upend Chile Politics and Unnerve Investors
  • Age 52, is the official candidate of Pinera’s Renovacion Nacional party.
  • A former police officer who later became a lawyer, Desbordes comes from a middle-class family.
  • Desbordes served as a lower house deputy and also as Pinera’s defense minister.
  • He has become increasingly critical of Pinera, and aligned with the opposition to vote in favor of pension withdrawals.

Gabriel Boric

Outsider Candidates Upend Chile Politics and Unnerve Investors
  • Age 35, was a founder of the left-wing party Convergencia Social, part of the Frente Amplio coalition which is critical of Chile’s economic model.
  • He was a leader of the nationwide student movement starting in 2011 that demanded free and high-quality education.
  • Before becoming congressman, he was Universidad de Chile’s student council president, succeeding Camila Vallejo, who is currently a deputy for the Communist Party.
  • Has been a deputy since 2014, and was re-elected with the second highest majority nationwide in 2018.

Paula Narvaez

Outsider Candidates Upend Chile Politics and Unnerve Investors
  • Age 48, is a member of the center-left Partido Socialista and served as government spokeswoman in Michelle Bachelet’s second presidential term.
  • Narvaez has worked at U.N. Women, a United Nations agency that works to empower women.
  • She was catapulted to the presidential race after the publication of a letter from Bachelet in which she endorsed Narvaez as the most suitable party candidate for this year’s elections.
  • Narvaez will not participate in the July primary, yet still may seek the presidency.

Joaquin Lavin

  • Age 67, is a U.S.-trained economist who is one of the so-called Chicago Boys who studied under Milton Friedman.
  • Is member of right-wing party Union Democrata Independiente and currently serves as mayor of wealthy Santiago district of Las Condes.
  • He unsuccessfully ran for president in 1999 and 2005.
  • Lavin held several cabinet positions in Pinera’s first term, including Education Minister and Social Development Minister.

Pamela Jiles

  • Age 60, is a lower house deputy for the left-wing Partido Humanista.
  • A journalist by background, Jiles first became famous from her appearances in TV gossip shows.
  • Her public appeal surged last year as she became one of the most vocal supporters of pension fund withdrawals, and she is Chile’s highest-rated political figure, according to poll released in April.
  • Unlike the other contenders, Jiles refused to participate in July’s primaries. It remains to be seen if her name will be on the presidential ballot come November.

Ignacio Briones

Outsider Candidates Upend Chile Politics and Unnerve Investors
  • Age 48, most recently served as Finance Minister under Pinera, and was previously a board member of state-owned copper company Codelco.
  • Briones holds a doctorate degree in economics from Sciences-Po, as well as two master’s degrees from Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile.
  • He previously was dean of the school of government at Universidad Adolfo Ibanez, where he also conducted research on political economy and financial and economic history.

Sebastian Sichel

  • Age 43, is a former law professor who was appointed by Pinera to help run economic development agency Corfo and later as Social Development Minister.
  • He has never been elected to any office after running for congress twice, and is competing as an independent.
  • Sichel said he’s in favor of liberal social policies such as adoption for same-sex couples and gay marriage.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.