An ascension from being a radical activist to assuming the presidential office is quite a milestone by Gabriel Boric, who will be Chile’s next president. Boric has ascertained his dominance in Chile’s politics and seems to have achieved the highest office in his backyard as he gets the privilege to lead his people.
Who is Gabriel Boric?
Gabriel Boric was born on 11 February 1986 in Punta Arenas, located in the far southern side of Chile. He studied at the British School and then moved to Santiago to study at the University of Chile’s Law School in 2004 [Source].
But his interests in law were thwarted by his passion for politics. He entered politics while leaving law studies, so he did not graduate. During his time at varsity, he joined the political collective Autonomous Left and was an advisor to the Students’ Union of the Law Department. He became its president in 2009.
He quickly turned into a radical student after leading a 44-days students protest and joined other students protest movements in 2011 as a president of the University of Chile Student Federation. Due to his vocal skills, he was selected as the spokesperson of the Federation of Chilean Students.
He attracted the spotlight as a radical activist and student protester. His aims were linked to having an improved education system that is cheap or affordable to the masses.
Early Political Career
By dropping his law studies to pursue a career in politics, Boric proved that he was very passionate about the Chilean political landscape.
To show his enthusiasm, in 2013, he “ran in the parliamentary elections as an independent candidate to represent District 60 (currently District 28), which encompasses the Region of Magallanes and the Chilean Antarctic”. It is usually hard for an independent candidate to win elections because of popular political parties.
But Boric showed that he possessed the winning spirit as “he was elected with 15,418 votes (26.18%), the highest number received by any candidate in the region”. According to the Chilean media, “Boris was elected outside of an electoral coalition, thereby successfully breaking through the Chilean bi-nominal election system.”
He was sworn in as a member of the Chamber of Deputies in 2014 and got re-elected with a landslide victory.
2021 Presidential Candidacy
Boric had amassed significant popularity in politics and decided to go for the presidential candidacy in his party. In the primary elections, he went against Recoleta mayor Daniel Jadue resulting in a huge upset as Jadue was expected to win.
As an underdog, Boric got 60% of the votes in the Apruebo Dignidad primary elections, and he announced plans to collaborate with Jadue. After winning the candidacy in his leftist side, he said, “If Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave. Do not be afraid of the youth changing this country”.
President-Elect Gabriel Boric
Boric entered Chile’s 2021 general election facing intense competition from far-right rival Jose Antonio Kast. Reports note that Boris was victorious by a surprising margin which political analysts did not expect. The 35-year old’s triumph is described as a sign of entering into a new phase whereby young adults are given a chance also to rule. He becomes Chile’s youngest president ever to rule the nation.
The elections results were as follows: “Gabriel Boric received 56 percent of the vote, a clear 12 points ahead of his conservative rival, Jose Antonio Kast” [Source]. Boric thanked all voters by saying, “Thank you to all of the people that live in this place we call Chile. The future of Chile needs [all of the candidates] on the people’s side”.
On Sunday, Kast conceded defeat and called Boric to congratulate him on his victory. These two met on Sunday evening at a hotel in Santiago [Source], which is part of Boric’s initiative to do away with divisions and unite all his people. Izkia Siches, head of Chile’s medical union, who was Boric’s campaign team leader after his first-round defeat, could not hide his joy. He said, “We are very happy because the hope of our country has triumphed. Ours will be a government of unity and construction”.
A young mind means fresh new ideas, and Chile will be ushered into a novel chapter with different ways of governance. During his campaign, Boric spoke of “radical reforms to the free-market economic model imposed by former dictator Gen Augusto Pinochet.” In describing his plans for Chile, Boric said they are “the root of the country’s deep inequality, imbalances that came to the surface during protests in 2019 that triggered an official redraft of the constitution” [Source]. His campaign trail also supported same-sex marriages and abortion rights, so he won the hearts of many citizens with similar worldviews.
“We are a generation that emerged in public life demanding our rights be respected as rights and not treated like consumer goods or a business. We know there continues to be justice for the rich, and justice for the poor, and we no longer will [we] permit that poor keep paying the price of Chile’s inequality,” as noted by the president-elect during his victory speech.
Boric concluded by pledging to be a “president for all Chileans” and added that “Today hope trumped fear.”
His presidential promises include decentralizing Chile, implementing a welfare state, increasing public spending by including “women, non-binary Chileans and Indigenous peoples like never before” [Source].
World leaders applauded the election results, including the UN Secretary Antony Blinken, who tweeted that “Once again, the people of Chile set an example of free and fair democratic elections. Congratulations to them and Chile’s President-elect Gabriel Boric. We look forward to continuing to work with Chile to advance our shared goals of democracy, prosperity, and security” [Source].
The former student protester and radical activist face the biggest challenge of his political career to lead a nation currently facing divisions and inequality, and it needs to heal.