Chile is polarised ahead of presidential and legislative elections next month as the nation faces widespread protests against inequality. The annual riots which have been held each year since 2019 triggered a social shift and led to the formation of a representative assembly to redraft the country’s constitution. The assembly met today to begin debating the constitution as social tensions ran high ahead of the upcoming elections. But who is leading in the polls?
The streets of Santiago in Chile erupted in violence with thousands congregating to mark the two year anniversary of mass demonstrations which left 30 dead.
Most people protested peacefully this week, while some set barricades on fire, broke traffic lights and forced train stations to close according to television footage.
A fast-food restaurant was also left ransacked in the Chilean capital.
Thousands gathered in Santiago and other cities to mark the anniversary of the 2019 protests and renew their calls for greater social justice.
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The riots have captured the attention of politicians vying for support in the upcoming election.
The leading leftist presidential candidate Gabriel Boric said it had been two years since Chileans “got fed up with abuses and opened to a process of change.”
His primary right-wing contender Jose Antonio Kast tweeted: “Two years after the criminal uprising, we dare to say ‘enough’ to violence that infuses terror, and to say that we want to live in peace.”
In November, elections will take place and lawmaker Gabriel Boric has been leading in most polls so far.
Far-right former lawmaker Mr Kast has gained as well, with one poll showing him ahead.
In a recent poll published on Sunday by pollster Cadem the two contenders were in a dead hear with Mr Kast at 21 percent support, compared to Mr Boric’s 20 percent.
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
If neither candidate wins 50 percent of the vote needed on November 21 – there will be a runoff election on December 19.
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Power is up for grabs as the traditional coalition headed by current president Sebastian Pinera has struggled to retain the backing of the public.
Mr Boric has been the clear frontrunner in most polls this year – reaching a height of 25 percent in mid-September.
However, he appears to be losing steam as the election draws closer with Mr Kast, who is calling for lower taxes and a reduction in the size of government.
The Constitutional Assembly, elected in May, began the process of debating the content of Chile’s new charter today (October 19).
Why did protests take place in 2019?
On October 18, 2019, protests against an increase in subway fares ballooned into a broader movement.
Over the subsequent weeks, millions of people took to the streets to demand better public services such as healthcare and education, as well as the ousting of billionaire President Sebastian Pinera.
Mr Pinera originally called in troops to restore peace, but he later agreed to a referendum which rejected the constitution dating from the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship and paved the way for a new charter.
The protests in 2019 cost $1.5billion in damages to public and private property.