EFESantiago de Chile

Chileans on Sunday voted in a runoff election pitting left-wing former student leader Gabriel Boric and right-wing candidate Jose Antonio Kast, competing to replace President Sebastian Piñera.

"Tonight we are going to have a new president elected by all of you and I believe that whoever he is, he should never forget that he must be the president of all Chileans, not only of those who supported him," Piñera said after casting his ballot.

The outgoing president added that Chile is suffering from “excessive polarization, confrontation, and disputes,” wishing the new president a term full of wisdom, prudence and success.

"We may have differences, but we all want the best for the country (...) Chileans have the capacity for dialogue and agreement, but politics seem like a permanent war," he said.

The latest opinion polls showed Boric holding a 5- to 14-point advantage over Kast; however, experts stressed that the outcome was still uncertain.

Boric, 35, seeks a welfare state and is committed to feminism, environmentalism and regionalism.

The right-wing Republican Party's Kast, on the other hand, a 55-year-old Catholic lawyer who has said he was a supporter of former military dictator Augusto Pinochet, promises to cut taxes, tackle illegal migration, and is firmly opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion in all circumstances.

The next president, who will office in March 2022 for a four-year term, will have to heal the wounds from the 2019 social crisis, when a wave of mass protests against social inequality left about 30 people killed and thousands others injured and arrested.

Among the new government's most pressing challenges will meeting the needs of a working class that is suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic and inflation surging to levels not seen in decades. EFE

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