Chile’s Conservative Presidential Candidate Rises in Polls
(Bloomberg) -- Chile’s conservative candidate Jose Antonio Kast rose to a statistical tie with Gabriel Boric in one poll and is closing in on the leftist contender in another a month before the highly-contested presidential vote.
Kast, who is running for Chile’s Republican Party, received 21% support in a survey by local pollster Cadem released Sunday, while Boric held 20%. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
A Pulso Ciudadano poll released Monday showed the right-wing candidate with 16.3% of voter intentions, while the former student protest leader garnered 21.3%. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.
Kast’s rise has surprised many in a country that has seen local politics turn sharply to the left in recent years. Still, the divided polls make it likely that none of the candidates would be able to clinch the 50% of the vote needed on Nov. 21 to avoid a runoff. The traditional coalition headed by current President Sebastian Pinera is struggling to gain support and remain in power.
The Chilean peso led emerging market gains in morning trading on Monday, rising 0.6% to 819.02 per dollar. The benchmark S&P IPSA equity index rose 2.2%, the biggest increase among primary indices tracked by Bloomberg.
Boric, 35, who until recently was the clear front-runner, has seen his popularity slip from 25% in mid-September, according to the Cadem poll. That has given a window to Kast, 55, who has called for lowering taxes and reducing the size of the government, and whose comments on abortion and homosexuality have made him a standard-bearer for social conservatism.
Boric’s coalition is critical of the free-market policies that have helped Chile to attract more foreign investment as a percent of gross domestic product than other Latin American countries at the expense of vast economic inequality. He captured the attention of the public with his position against the status quo, at a time when disapproval of Pinera, a billionaire economist, reached 79% in the Cadem poll.
Kast’s fast ascent in the polls come as his center-right competitor, Sebastian Sichel, loses popularity and is now lingering in fourth place, according to both surveys.
Sichel’s support fell from 24% in early August to 7% in Sunday’s poll, in part because of the revelation that he had withdrawn savings from his pension fund despite criticizing a bill aimed to freeing up more retirement money for Chileans. Pulso Ciudadano showed him with 7.5% of voter intentions.
Going forward, Kast faces no shortage of challenges. His rejection rate is the highest among all candidates, at 37.6%, well above 18.5% for Boric, according to the Pulso Ciudadano poll. The surveys also show Boric beating all other major candidates in potential runoff vote scenarios.
If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in the first round, a runoff will be held on Dec. 19.
The Cadem poll surveyed 706 adults by telephone between Oct. 13 and Oct. 14 with a 95% confidence rating. The Pulso Ciudadano poll surveyed 1,632 people online between Oct. 12 and Oct. 15, with a 95% confidence rating.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.