In a global context in which the traditional right-wing have moderated their programs and have faced competition from their extreme right, an academic study by the Diego Portales University (UDP), in Chile, has analyzed the characteristics of those who support and reject the project. of Jose Antonio Kast and the Republican Party, as their respective reasons. Led by the academic Cristobal Rovira, PhD in Political Science from the Humboldt University of Berlin, the research Support and rejection of the extreme right in Chile analyzes the national scene, where in the first presidential round last year Kast obtained the first majority, over the leftist Gabriel Boric, with 27.91% against 25.83%, respectively.
Although Boric ultimately won the presidency with the support of the center-left and Kast lost it with the support of the right, the Republican Party won 15 representatives and one senator, making it relevant in a fragmented Congress without majorities. This week, when the political forces agreed across the board on a new constituent route, in line with the 67% of the people who want to replace the current Fundamental Charter, according to the polls, Kast and his forces withdrew because, as their leader said, “Chile does not need a new Constitution.”
According to the UDP study, 18% support Kast’s project, while 60% reject it. The researcher Rovira assures that the difference in this percentage with the result of the 2021 presidential elections is explained because, in the first and second rounds, there was no mandatory vote.
Although the ultra-right was not strong until recently in Latin America, the research indicates, the picture began to change with the election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil in 2018. Since then, not only have new leaders emerged, but it has organized regionally. In Chile, says the study led by Rovira, there are two elements that pushed the Kast phenomenon: the change from the binomial electoral system to a proportional one in 2017 and the moderation of the traditional right, which has tried to get rid of the legacy of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, because they belong to a different generation than the one that played a role in the regime and the one that led the transition. With a past as a member of the UDI, one of the parties of the traditional right, Kast marks differences with the conventional parties in this sector. “This agreement does not represent a second chance, but a second mistake,” he assured this week for the new constituent route negotiated by all political forces.
For the leader of the Chilean extreme right – “some say that I am extreme”, he said in his presidential campaign – the urgencies of the population are others, not the Constitution. Above all, crime, irregular immigration and the economic situation, with 2023 with a recession ahead and with an inflation little known to Chileans of 13.3% per year. According to the study, Kast’s supporters are homogeneous, that is, regardless of their age, sex and socioeconomic group, they are ideologically similar, which is in contrast to those who reject the project of the Chilean Republican Party. There are at least three concepts that are repeated in the speeches of sympathizers of the extreme right: family, homeland and security. Of the qualities that recognize Kast, they highlight “his consistency and sincerity, which is one of the elements that generates the most criticism regarding the traditional right.”
The research ensures that people who are against the extreme right are more women than men, because “the extreme right tends to have more male followers and more female detractors, due to the rather negative positions towards feminism of the extreme right”. Those who support the extreme right in Chile, moreover, come from the lower and upper strata rather than the middle, while those who reject the extreme right are made up of the middle and upper strata.
Regarding religion, while those who are against the extreme right are considerably less religious than the average voter, those who are in favor of the extreme right are more Catholic, Evangelical or Protestant. The Chilean far-right, in turn, has the largest number of followers in the 45-54 age group, but performs poorly in the 18-29 age group.
“Those who are against the extreme right have a higher level of interest in politics than those who are in favor of the extreme right and the average voter,” says the research, which analyzes the relationship of each group with democracy. While roughly half of those who are in favor of the far right say they support democracy, this number is far lower than those who are against the far right (77%) and the national average (68%). At the same time, around a quarter of those who are in favor of the extreme right think that under certain circumstances an authoritarian government may be preferable to a democratic one (25%), a figure that is much lower in the group of people who are both against the extreme right (8%) and the average voter (13%).
“Likewise, the data also reflects that those who are in favor of the extreme right in Chile have lower levels of satisfaction with democracy” compared to the other two groups, it is indicated in Support and rejection of the extreme right in Chile.
family and homeland
In a context where Kast’s supporters and detractors agree on the disintegrated and experiential way in which his political discourse is presented, the high level of institutional distrust and, curiously, the idea of the importance of moderation, a man from Santiago de Chile of more than 45-year-old, said: “Kast cares more about principles, family and homeland. What is happening in the north also with immigration. He is one of the politicians who has worried about raising an alarm about what is happening, with the number of immigrants that are entering, while the others do nothing.
A woman of the same age, from the capital, rejected the project of the Republican Party and its leader with the following explanation: “Honestly, when he started running with Boric, I went for him. When he said that single mothers would be left out of his government I am a single mother, to great honor, and my son and I are a family. So if he had won, I would have felt as intimidated and disenfranchised, perhaps, as many other people. So, I said, no, no, and I began to inform myself and absolutely ruled out voting for him…”.
While Kast’s supporters allude to “the figure of Augusto Pinochet as an ideal of order to be rescued”, despite their ambivalent relationship to this matter, among the reasons of the detractors is precisely that he has not broken with the dictator and to defend part of his legacy: “The guys in this party have no filters, they have no parameters. They launch, attack… like Pinochet,” said a man from Temuco, in the south of the country, in a testimony collected by this study.
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