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LatinNews Daily - 27 October 2021

CHILE: Sichel's campaign shows signs of unravelling

On 26 October, Chilean right-wing presidential candidate Sebastián Sichel condemned politicians who, he said, were seeking to “blackmail” him into adopting far-right positions.

Analysis:

Sichel is an independent who won the presidential nomination in July for the Chile Podemos Más coalition, composed of the four parties currently in government: Unión Democrática Independiente (UDI), Renovación Nacional (RN), Evolución Política (Evópoli) and Partido Regionalista Independiente (PRI). His difficulty is that he has begun to slip in the polls: from frontrunner in some opinion polls in August, he slipped to largely second place in September; in the latest Cadem poll published on 24 October he has dropped to fourth out of the seven candidates.

  • Sichel, with moderate centre-right positions, is being eclipsed by the far-right candidate, José Antonio Kast from the Partido Republicano (PR). The 24 October poll puts Kast in first position with 23% of voter intentions, followed by left-winger Gabriel Boric with 20%, and centre-left Yasna Provoste on 12%. Sichel now lies fourth with 7% of voting intentions. If no candidate wins an outright majority in the 21 November polls, there will be a run-off ballot held on 19 December.
  • Sichel risks being squeezed out of the race entirely. Two UDI members of congress have already announced they intend to switch their support to back Kast. In an attempt to regain the initiative Sichel said he was giving the parties in his coalition “freedom of action” to change their minds if they so desired. RN, Evópoli, and PRI quickly ratified their support, but UDI did not immediately respond.
  • Sichel also warned against Kast’s more extreme policies, saying he and his supporters want a return to the past. In an echo of former US president Donald Trump (2017-2021), Chile’s current frontrunner has proposed digging ditches on the country’s northern borders to keep immigrants out. “Let’s not dig ditches where Chileans are trying to build agreements,” Sichel retorted.

Looking Ahead: With the first round of the elections now only four weeks away, it will be difficult for Sichel to get back into the race. He is handicapped by association with an unpopular outgoing government, while Kast has been free to gather momentum offering disaffected Chilean voters a populist far-right agenda.