July 7, 2021


CHILE: Spotlight on the radical left

BY Nicholas Watson

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( 3 mins)

Presidential primary voting is scheduled for 18 July. Two blocs representing the center-right Chile Vamos (CV) coalition and the more radical left Apruebo Dignidad coalition are participating. The center-left bloc now going under the name of Unidad Constituyente is not taking part, though that does not mean it cannot organize its own unofficial primary and/or go on to participate in the November/December presidential elections. However, for the moment, the more radical left is setting the electoral pace, especially as polls suggest that turnout for the Apruebo Dignidad primary is likely to exceed the center-right’s parallel contest.

Apruebo Dignidad is a new alliance between the Communist Party (PC) and the Broad Front (FA). The upcoming primary will determine the alliance’s presidential candidate. The PC’s candidate is Daniel Jadue, the mayor of the Recoleta district in the capital. The FA’s candidate is Gabriel Boric, the student leader-turned-deputy. A Cadem poll from mid-June pointed to a relatively easy victory for Jadue, though a DataInfluye poll from later in June suggested Boric was closing the gap, albeit with Jadue still leading. Possible tactical voting in what is a semi-open primary makes it difficult to predict the outcome.


The two candidates share many of the same policy positions. Both are in favor of wholescale pension system reform; a new wealth tax; a new mining royalty; land restitution and greater political autonomy for indigenous groups; political reforms including greater “citizen participation”; and a more “muscular” state (Jadue’s words). Both seek “profound transformations” in the development model of the past 30 years.


Boric is slightly less radical and more gradualist in his approach. Jadue’s program has been costed at 11% of GDP, while Boric’s stands at 8%; note that the FA’s 2017 program would have cost 5.5% of GDP to implement. Jadue wants to raise tax revenues by 10% of GDP over four years; Boric says this is an end point that will require more time to put into effect. Boric also says he would maintain the Central Bank (BCCh)’s autonomy, while Jadue has plans to expand the bank’s mandate. The PC – Jadue included – did not support the 2019 cross- party agreement to set about changing the constitution, though the PC ultimately participated in the constituent assembly elections and now has seven assembly members, part of a 28-strong bloc with the FA.

Looking ahead

Jadue is a more polarizing figure than Boric, who can more easily appeal to some on the center-left, particularly from the Socialist Party (PS). Jadue is also sympathetic to Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, while his recent proposal to establish a body with the power to withdraw media concessions exhibits worryingly authoritarian signs. In the post-pandemic environment, with poverty up and anti-status quo sentiment high, these issues may not matter so much. In fact, Jadue’s radicalism explains how he leapt into contention in the early presidential polls (not just the polls measuring him against Boric).

However, that same strength could become a weakness should Jadue win the Apruebo Dignidad primary. If the center-left does eventually enter the race with a credible candidate, some within the FA could end up defecting away from the PC candidate. Jadue also faces a residual threat on his left flank in the shape of the populist deputy Pamela Jiles. There is a long road to November but Jadue’s participation would set up a polarizing campaign.

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