Right-wing candidates surprise in campaigns in Argentina and Chile

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“Hello everyone, I’m the lion,” roared the beast in the middle of the avenue. Everyone ran without understanding, panic show in broad daylight”, shouted into the microphone, in a hoarse voice, to hundreds of enchanted young people, the Argentine economist Javier Milei.

With open arms, in front of a screen that showed the illustration of the lion of his logo, he continued to chant the lines of an Argentine rock band, but parodying one of the lines: “I am the king and I will destroy you, all the caste are from my appetite”.

The audience, mainly men, responded with exalted cheers to “Viva la Libertad!” that the 51-year-old economist, who was once a rock singer and soccer goalkeeper, shouted several times before starting the speech of the act that closed his campaign, last Saturday (6), in a park in Buenos Aires.

Argentina goes to the polls this Sunday (14), in legislative elections, to choose half of the Chamber and a third of the Senate. The tendency is for Milei to be elected federal deputy for the city of Buenos Aires and to drag with him, by proportional vote, two more legislators from his list, out of the 13 deputies that will be elected by the city of Buenos Aires to be in Congress.

In the primaries, a mandatory election held in September to define which of the registered pre-candidates can run in the elections, the Juntos por el Cambio coalition, which governs the city, won 48.2%, the Kirchnerista won 24.7% of the votes, and Milei’s alliance came in third, with 13.7%, far behind the Left Front, which had 6.2%.

Across the Andes Mountains, in Chile, Milei’s leather jacket and messy hair, which he claims he hasn’t combed since he was 13 years old and leaves to the mercy of the “invisible hand”, gives way to the formality of shirt and of the 55-year-old José Antonio Kast tie.

“Don’t worry, everything will be fine”, says the Chilean, in a video montage on the social network Tik Tok, preventing the passage of a baseball that advances towards the viewer.

The strategy of winning over the young electorate contrasts with the claim he has already made and is brought to light in this campaign, that if Augusto Pinochet were alive, he would vote for him.

One of his brothers, Miguel Kast, who died in 1983 of bone cancer, was president of the Central Bank and worked in two ministries in the then dictator’s cabinet. Now, Kast, who is in his second attempt to win the Chilean presidency, appears at the top of voting intentions (25%) in the November 21 election.

And he has been opening up an advantage over his likely rival in the second round, Gabriel Boric (19%), deputy and former leftist student leader, according to the Cadem research institute. In a second round match, Kast would beat Boric by 44% to 40%, according to the survey.

Both candidates are critical of their countries’ traditional rights – and are on the far right, according to political scientists.

For analysts heard by CNN, both Milei and Kast manage to take advantage of the moment of questioning globalism and traditional institutions, defending the supposed anti-communist struggle, as occurred in Brazil, the United States and European countries.

points in common

In addition to harsh criticism of Kirchnerism, which he calls “impoverishing Castro-Chavism”, Milei classifies the policy of Juntos por el Cambio, a coalition of former president Mauricio Macri, on the right on the Argentine political spectrum, as “socialism in good manners” .

The economist promises not to create any taxes, claims that global warming is an invention of the left, and says he wants to “dynamit” the Central Bank.

In the frequent appearances on different channels in the country in recent years, he does not spare insults to opponents, which range from swearing to qualifications such as “leftists”, “parasites” and “ruling caste”.

Milei admits affinities with the ideology of President Jair Bolsonaro (non-party) in the battle against leftism and what he considers to be the fight for “freedom”.

The same happens with Kast, who even met with President Bolsonaro when the Brazilian had already been elected, at the Conservative Summit of the Americas, in December 2018, in Foz do Iguaçu.

With Bolsonaro, both share the defense of economic ultraliberalism, the critique of abortion and the critical discourse on environmentalists. Kast and Milei also speak out against what they call “gender ideology” and in favor of carrying weapons for self-defense.

Kast still drinks from Donald Trump’s fountain in anti-immigration verve: the Chilean candidate calls for a ditch to be dug on the border with Bolivia, to keep out irregular immigrants.

In the closing act of Milei in Buenos Aires, the CNN approached a young man who bought a brooch that read “LGBT: Freedom, Guns, Bolsonaro and Trump”. Asked if he liked Bolsonaro, he promptly replied: “I love guns. I have possessions, I shoot guns, and I think his policy of allowing people to have weapons to defend themselves is important. I also like that he has placed a limit on the left”, he says, about the Brazilian president.

Chile

In the case of Chile, Kast also knew how to take advantage of the anti-elitist, anti-institutional and anti-corruption questions that motivated the 2019 social uprising. Sebastián Piñera.

Kast, who was a deputy for the Independent Democratic Union (UDI), of the coalition that was part of the rightist’s first government, broke with the acronym, and competes with the one he founded, the Republican Party.

The rise of the candidate in voting intentions after the Chilean social uprising of 2019, with vast protests against inequalities and social injustices, which resulted in a plebiscite to replace the constitution inherited from Pinochet, is still surprising.

“It’s a contradiction that no one saw that it was coming”, he defines, in an interview with CNN Eugenio Tironi, sociologist at the Catholic University of Chile and columnist for the newspaper El Mercurio.

Chileans returned to the polls to elect a Constituent Convention, with gender parity and indigenous representation, which ended up being mostly left-wing, and is presided over by Elisa Loncón, a Mapuche teacher, the most numerous native people in Chile. Those elected are responsible for drafting the new constitution.

“The Chilean right was expected to renew itself towards the center, but the renewal is being taken by the ultra-right”, says Tironi about the intention to vote and support for Kast. The candidate defines the Piñera government as disastrous, despite not agreeing with the opening of the impeachment against the current president, approved by the deputies last Tuesday (9/11).

Piñera is accused of alleged irregularities in the sale of a mining company with a majority stake in his family, in 2010. The government candidate, Sebastián Sichel, appears with 8% of the voting intentions, in fifth place in the latest Cadem poll, before the voting.

“During the campaign, a good part of the electorate has radicalized to the right, and Sichel is also being abandoned by parties like the UDI and the National Renovation, which do not know where to go because the implications of the social explosion have not yet been processed properly in Chile. ”, explains Raul Elgueta Rosas, from the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Santiago de Chile.

“We are still stunned”, he adds, questioning the methodology of the electoral polls and stating that there is still no measuring instrument for a sufficient understanding of what is happening in the country.

For Robert Funk, a political scientist at the Public Affairs Institute of the University of Chile, there has been a feeling for about 10 years that Chilean public opinion has modernized on issues of values, “with greater acceptance of issues such as divorce, abortion and egalitarian marriage”.

At the same time, the most modern discourse on gender, indigenous peoples and the political regime – even a possible parliamentary system is being discussed –, added to two years of “protests with destruction”, begin to generate some fear.

“It was assumed that Chile was moving away from the conservatism that has always marked it, but we still don’t know how far that is,” says Funk.

He explains that, despite the country having decided in favor of a constituent aiming at better public services, such as retirement, education and health, the desire for “order”, one of Kast’s banners, still persists.

For Tironi, significant sectors of rural Chile, the popular middle class and the right do not feel represented by the protests and attempts to change. According to the latest survey by the country’s Center for Public Studies, in December 2019, 55% of those consulted said they supported the demonstrations.

As of August 2021, 39% said they supported them. Those who say they rejected them increased from 11% to 26%. Those who say that at first they supported it, and then not, went from 10% to 14%.

According to Funk, Chile has always had a “low tolerance for disorder”. For this reason, the territorial conflict between Mapuche and landowners in the south of the country, which has escalated in recent weeks and gives the impression of a lack of governability and institutional response, also contributes to strengthening the intention to vote for Kast.

Argentina

For María Victoria Murillo, director of the Institute of Latin American Studies at Columbia University, Argentina is also experiencing discontent with the country’s two main political options – the Peronist alliance that brought Alberto Fernández to power and Juntos por el Cambio, which it links the Radical Civic Union to the Republican Proposal, of former president Mauricio Macri. A media character, Milei has managed to express this discontent.

“But we are not talking about a dramatic right turn. Definitely, if we are talking about a left-wing government, the alternative comes to the right and vice versa. This always happens”, he says, noting that Argentina already had its crisis of representation in 2001, and a renewal in politics with Peronism and Kirchnerism versus the emergence of the macrista alliance.

With successive governments failing to solve the country’s economic problems, the perception of the difference between the two great coalitions is small. Without believing in the ability of these options to resolve the crisis, one ends up looking for a third.

“Milei grows in a context where there is already a right-wing party. This shows voter discontent with mainstream right-wing moderation, [com a sensação de que] they are not hard enough on their opponents or radicals in their economic positions or that they are ambiguous in their cultural ones,” says Gustavo Vommaro, a right-wing researcher in Argentina and Latin America and professor of political sociology at the National University of San Martín.

For him, however, Milei is a phenomenon still limited to the city of Buenos Aires, traditionally ruled by the right. Federico González, a consultant at a research institute, agrees that support for the far-right candidate is still local, but says liberalism is an emerging force in Argentina. The problem, he explains, is the limit Milei finds due to the impression that misogyny and lack of education leaves behind.

But for many who vote for him, Milei, who in his campaign taught public economics classes, seems to bring the solution to an ancient Argentine drama: the successive economic crises. “For us, the economy has always been a problem that kills all political projects and the dreams of Argentines. Milei positions himself as a teacher, shows himself to be confident. It’s radical, but it says it’s going to take control of the situation, and society codifies this as a promise and an illusion”, explains González.

In politics, the tool used to protest against the system used to be via the left, but Argentina’s has become “so old and outdated” that liberals are now winning those votes, explains analyst and public opinion consultant Jorge Giacobbe. He points out that in the primaries Milei got 14% of the vote but reached 20 in an important low-income community in the city.

“It’s not necessarily an educated or partisan ideological phenomenon, but one based on disgust. Whether he will later be able to convert into an identity with a series of ideas is another story, because Kirchnerism did exactly that, after appearing as the symptom of an entire society that was angry”, he concludes.

Reference: CNN Brasil

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