SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Two outsider candidates hailing from opposite extremes of the political spectrum took an early lead in Chile’s presidential election Sunday following a bruising campaign that laid bare deep social tensions in the region’s most economically advanced country.
With barely 4% of voting booths reporting results, most of them from Chilean embassies abroad, far right lawmaker José Antonio Kast had 29% support compared to 25% for former student protest leader Gabriel Boric. If neither candidate secures a 50% majority, the two top finishers will compete in a Dec. 19 runoff.
Pre-election polls point to a large number of undecided voters but consistently have favored Boric and Kast in the field of seven candidates. Also up for grabs is Chile’s entire 155-seat lower house of Congress and about half the Senate.
Boric, 35, would become Chile's youngest modern president. He was among several student activists elected to Congress in 2014 after leading protests for higher quality education. Running as the head of a broad alliance that includes Chile's Communist Party, if elected he says he will raise taxes on the “super rich” to expand social services and boost protections of the environment.
He's also vowed to eliminate the country's private pension system — one of the hallmarks of the free market reforms imposed in the 1980s by Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.
Kast, 55, from the newly formed Republican Party, emerged from the far right fringe after having won less than 8% of the vote in 2017 as an independent. But he's been steadily rising in the polls this time with a divisive discourse emphasizing conservative family values as well as attacking migrants — many from Haiti and Venezuela — he blames for crime.
A fervent Roman Catholic and father of nine,...