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Chile’s President Could Be a Leftist or Another Bolsonaro

Voters go to the polls on Sunday to choose between far-right José Antonio Kast and young leftist Gabriel Boric.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Gabriel Boric and José Antonio Kast pose.
Gabriel Boric and José Antonio Kast pose.
Chilean presidential candidates Gabriel Boric (right) and José Antonio Kast pose before a presidential debate in Santiago, Chile, on Dec. 10. Martin Bernetti/AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Chile prepares for a presidential runoff, Hong Kong holds Legislative Council elections, and a record number of journalists are jailed in 2021.

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Chile’s Polarized Election

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Chile prepares for a presidential runoff, Hong Kong holds Legislative Council elections, and a record number of journalists are jailed in 2021.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Chile’s Polarized Election

Chile’s presidential election campaign enters its final days as voters prepare to choose between two men with radically different visions for their country.

On Sunday, voters will decide between Gabriel Boric—a 35-year-old, two-term congressman who began his political career as a student protest leader—and José Antonio Kast, a former congressman whose style and far-right ideology has drawn comparisons to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Boric has had to fight off attacks from the right that his sympathies lie too far to the left, especially since his nomination was initially backed by the local Communist Party. His campaign has sought to quell fears that he is a retread of leftist leaders in Venezuela and Cuba, attempting to assure the electorate he is more social democrat than socialist.

The two men rose to the runoff after a contested first round in November. Then, Kast came first, with almost 28 percent of the vote, and Boric came close behind with almost 26 percent. Since then, polls have mostly indicated a majority in Boric’s favor, as the left-leaning leader has sought to moderate his stances to broaden his appeal. Kast’s efforts to do the same appear to have borne fruit, with both men neck and neck in a poll released on Thursday.

As well as both candidates presenting revamped political programs, the campaign has raised other surprises, including news that Kast’s father, who emigrated to Chile from Germany after World War II, was a card-carrying Nazi.

An uphill task awaits whoever wins on Sunday, Claudia Heiss, the head of political science at the University of Chile, told Foreign Policy. “I think they both will have a very hard time,” Heiss said. “First of all, because theres a tight Congress that will lead any government, left or right, to immobilism. And second, whoever wins will receive a very damaged economy and the unpleasant task of reducing public spending because Chile for the last year spent like crazy.”

Heiss said a Boric victory would smooth the transition to a new constitution, currently under consideration by a sympathetic constitutional assembly. However he could soon have to play bad cop, Heiss said, if his proposed tax increases fail to pay for a planned expansion of Chile’s welfare state.

Despite Kasts Trumpian warning, without evidence, of impending electoral fraud, Chile’s professional electoral commission is expected to deliver preliminary results by 9 p.m. local time on Sunday.


What We’re Following Today

Boris Johnson on the ropes. Britains Conservative Party lost a closely watched by-election on Thursday in what was once seen as one of its safest seats. The Liberal Democratscandidate, Helen Morgan, won the race in North Shropshire, taking 47 percent of the vote while the Conservatives won just 31.5 percent. Morgans victory was all the more remarkable because it came in a largely rural, pro-Brexit constituency, where the Conservatives had won with 62.7 percent of the vote in 2019; Morgan came third with just 10 percent of the vote in that race.

The turnaround, which saw the Conservative vote share cut in half, comes after the former local member of Parliament, Owen Paterson, became mired in a corruption scandal. Paterson was investigated for breaching lobbying rules while in office, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson then sought to protect him from punishment by overhauling the disciplinary system for members of Parliament. Subsequent outcry led Paterson to resign.

Analysts have warned that the loss could be the last straw for Johnson after several disastrous revelations about Johnson and his staff breaching COVID-19 lockdown rules last year, which dented his approval ratings and allowing the Labour Party to take the lead in national polls. Morgan, for her part, wasted no time in taking a shot at the prime minister. It is “all about you and never about us,” she said after the votes were counted. “Our country is crying out for leadership. Mr. Johnson, you are no leader.”

U.S.-Russia relations. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov holds a briefing on U.S.-Russia relations today in Moscow amid tensions between the two countries over a Russian military buildup near Ukraine. Ryabkov’s press conference comes after a visit from the top U.S. diplomat on Russia, Karen Donfried. Ryabkov reportedly offered Donfried fresh proposals for mutual security guarantees, which would include an agreement to halt NATO’s eastern expansion.

IAEA updates on Iran. Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will brief reporters on developments related to the IAEA’s monitoring and verification work in Iran. His remarks come as the IAEA reached an agreement to replace damaged monitoring cameras at a key Iranian nuclear site, a move that likely keeps Iran from being censured by the IAEA Board of Governors.


Keep an Eye On

Hong Kong elections. Hong Kong’s first legislative elections since a Beijing-imposed crackdown on civil liberties take place this Sunday, with low turnout expected. Just three of the 153 candidates standing in the Legislative Council elections are considered pro-democracy, according to a count from the South China Morning Post. Turnout is expected to fall to a record low, with one poll predicting 51 percent participation, far below the more than 80 percent turnout logged in the previous two elections.

Journalism under threat. A record 488 members of the media were imprisoned in 2021, Reporters Without Borders announced on Thursday, a 20 percent rise from the previous year. China detained the most journalists this year, with Myanmar, Vietnam, Belarus, and Saudi Arabia rounding out the top five. The report found that 46 journalists were killed in 2021, the lowest number reported since the group began keeping annual records in 1995.


FP Recommends

Spend less than a day in official Washington, and youll see how quickly the place would fall apart without interns filling the gaps and often the roles of paid staffers—without getting paid themselves. FPs Robbie Gramer and Anna Weber explore the murky world of Washingtons internship complex to find out who it really helps.


Odds and Ends

Santa Claus has yet to come to the rescue of a model Rudolph in the Canadian town of Fort Nelson, even as the festive decoration has become a target for mating deer in the area. “Every year, a buck in the area attacks him or hits and knocks him over and breaks him,” said Arlene Chmelyk, who places the repurposed archery target in her yard every Christmas season. The Rudolph model has already lost its head and legs from rival deer over the past five years, a problem Chmelyk has solved with glue and perseverance. “Im like, he has a bright red nose,” Chmelyk told CBC News. “Im not really sure what [the deer] see.”

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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