Rossana Castiglioni is Uruguayan by birth and Chilean by adoption, doctor in Political Science and Dean of the Diego Portales University of Chile. He believes that the polarization of the candidates, the fresh proposal of Gabriel Boric and the fear of his opponent, José Antonio Kast, have been some of the causes that mobilized more than a million new voters to the polls.
Among Castiglioni’s intellectual interests are the problems that derive from democratic representation. For Rossana it is clear that Boric arises as a product of the social uprising of 2011 that regains its strength in 2019 and seeks to be the voice of those sectors from La Moneda. The limits and possibilities that the new government will have are less clear.RELATED
Polls were tight, but Boric ended up beating Kast by more than 12 points. Did you expect this result?
It has been surprising. On the one hand, because of the forcefulness of the result. At a certain point one could hope Boric would win but no one expected such a strong result. We must add to that the high level of participation. Chile had experienced, since the democratic transition until now, a drop in electoral participation with a plateau of around 50% in recent years. Nobody expected it to reach 55% turnout at the polls.
Why did that happen?
On the one hand, Boric has probably been able to mobilize the youngest, those who did not participate, who did not feel seduced by the traditional left, who did not have a strong political position. But there has also been a lot of vote driven by negative political identities, that is, people who have gone to vote more against Kast than in favor of Boric. Finally, the polls that were disseminated gave a technical tie and when the elections are so competitive they motivate a greater number of voters to participate. That was what one would hear on the street, the days before the election: all votes are necessary. You have to go out and vote.
How do you analyze José Antonio Kast’s reaction?
Kast’s tone has also come as a surprise, in part because very quickly posted a tweet saying that now we had to support the president-elect. That was a striking gesture when, a few hours earlier, he was saying that they were going to contest the result if it was tight. That also seemed like a republican gesture to me.
Why do you think that happened?
There must be many explanations but I think it has to do with the margin of defeat, which was very clear. The enormous difference left him in a position of relative weakness that he probably did not anticipate.
What will Kast’s role be from now on? Do you think you can lead the opposition?
I see it very difficult. First, because their presence is not overwhelming in Congress. And second, because he lost the election and also lost for his congressmen, who have campaigned dirty and at any cost, one saying he doubted that the female vote would have been a good idea, another spreading false images of Boric in a protest. We are talking about really shameful things. That is why I think he is going to have difficulties, not only because of him but also because of those who accompany him.
Do you think that Kast seeks to show a more moderate profile?
Can be. I don’t know if he or if he was radicalized based on his surroundings. In other words, his environment is so extreme that, within the republican world, Kast does not represent the most radical wing. It could be worse. The candidate for president, the last weeks, he spent denying his environment. Kast belongs to the radical right, there is no doubt about that, but I think there is still something more republican in him than one could have seen in another radical right like Bolsonaro or Trump.
Boric will take office with a tied Senate and a divided House. Will you be able to move forward with your proposals?
It is not going to be easy but the key is in the type of cabinet that you manage to assemble. You will have to design a team that has the ability to interact with Congress. It is possible that if you do not elect an ex-Concertación, with the ability to move well in those waters, it will be difficult for you. And above all because it wants to move forward with a tax reform that manages to collect five points of GDP to be able to finance reforms such as education or retirement.
Will the debate over the pension fund managers (AFP) be the new government’s priority?
Boric said he was going to liquidate the private AFPs. In Chile we have an individual savings system, not a social security system. So the reforms will be seen as controversial, whoever is in the presidency. For this reason, managing to pass them with a Congress this tight will undoubtedly be very difficult if it does not manage to build agreements.
Many of the leaders of the center left, those who are not part of the Broad Front, said that they will not be part of the Government. Do you think it will be like this?
Let’s see how long that position lasts. I do not rule out seeing some rapprochement from some leaders of the Concertación. I believe that it can recruit some visible face of that political space. On Sunday, it seemed to me that one of the keys was that there was no one on stage standing behind Boric. I think he said a lot with that. The message has been clear: “this government is open.” Here no one has to take anything for granted. The only ones who have to take things for granted are the campaign managers, Giorgio Jackson and Izkia Siches. Of the rest, nobody has insured anything.
How much weight will the Communist Party (PC) have in the Boric government?
The relationship with the PC is going to be complicated whatever happens. Having the PC inside is a cross and having the PC outside is another cross. He is going to have to choose what kind of cross he wants. On the other hand, the Communist Party campaigned for him, so it will not be able to exclude him from the decisions either. I don’t know how the relationship is going to end.
You represent the educational community, especially the university sector, a leading actor in these changes. Is Boric’s victory good news for this sector?
For the university world this is good news. In sectors of the radical right, as in the Republican Party of José Antonio Kast, there is a somewhat “anti-intellectual” position. When you heard them speak, it seemed that the public universities were going to be intervened, things of that kind that give you a bit of chills. Well, it’s fear we don’t have it at all. But the education sector has been a very hit sector in recent years, with reforms that were being put together as they went along, generating a lot of uncertainty. Many of us in the university world are wondering if the rules of the game are going to change again and in any case how the new ones will be.
By what path should the new government advance on this issue?
I would love to have an education system like Finnish but we don’t have it and we don’t have the same resources. I believe that to navigate the education that exists, to transition to a better quality system of public education, is not something that is done overnight. And that all these measures when they come from above, in an untimely way, are a disaster. I am a little afraid of that. I think it is important that the Ministry of Education have people who have the capacity for dialogue and who know how to negotiate.
What did you think of Boric’s speech on Sunday?
It seems to me that it was a speech with an appropriate tone, appropriate for the moment in which the country is. It seems to me that we have experienced very high levels of polarization. We are living through a very dirty, tough campaign in which he made an effort to speak to those who voted for him and those who did not vote for him, to the people who have a more radical position and to the people who have a more moderate position. In other words, he sought to build a balanced discourse and that signal is powerful. He did not speak as a leader of the student movement. He spoke as president.
Among the criticisms of the opponents is the issue of his age, do you think he is qualified for management?
Boric is a smart person. He is not just a sunrise or an outsider, those are those who one has to be afraid of, those who come to do politics saying: “I am not a politician.” I think he has a very political discourse but anti old politics.
Is he a candidate who arises from the bottom up or is he a candidate who, being at the top, manages to name his electorate?
Boric comes from the social movement of 2011 more than in 2019. That is the moment when he emerged as everything. Boric is a leader of the student movement but he built a political trajectory through parties closely linked and coordinated with social movements, but he is not the leader of the social movement. Boric arrives as the leader of a coalition of left-wing parties. Many associate it with 2019 but it started earlier.