Runoff looms in Chile as far-right Kast leads presidential vote

A far-right former congressman is leading Chile’s presidential election and looks likely to face a runoff with a former student activist.

With nearly 97 percent of the vote counted on Sunday, Jose Antonio Kast had 27.94 percent versus 25.75 percent for Gabriel Boric, with a sizeable gap between them and the rest of the field.

Both were well short of the majority needed for an outright win, meaning Chile is headed for what is likely to be a polarised runoff next month.

The election is Chile’s most divisive since its 1990 return to democracy, splitting voters between those seeking a shake-up of the Andean country’s free-market model and those demanding a harder line against crime and immigration.

Kast, a 55-year-old father of nine, has praised the neo-liberal “economic legacy” of former dictator Augusto Pinochet.

His frank talk, across-the-board conservatism and sometimes idiosyncratic policy ideas, such as digging a ditch to curb illegal immigration, have drawn frequent comparisons with former United States President Donald Trump and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro.

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