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Far-right lawmaker, ex-protester to meet in Chilean runoff

Chilean presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, speaks to supporters during a clo...
Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast, takes a selfie with a supporter during a campaign rally in Valdivia, Chile, Wednesday, Nov....
Supporters of Chilean presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," I Approve of Dignity, gather for a closing c...
Chilean Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast, speaks to supporters during a campaign rally in Valdivia, Chile, Wednesday, Nov. 17...
Army officers talk inside of Monumental stadium that will serve as a polling station for Sunday's general elections, including presidential, in Santia...
Electoral workers train at a school that will serve as a polling station for Sunday's general elections, including presidential, in Santiago, Chile, F...
An Army officer walks inside a school that will serve as a polling station for Sunday's general elections, including presidential, in Santiago, Chile,...
An exit sign hangs over a soccer net at a school will serve as a polling station for Sunday's general elections, including presidential, in Santiago, ...
Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast, arrives at a polling station before voting during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile...
Sebastián Sichel of the center-right government coalition, arrives to vote during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (A...
People reflected on a ballot box wait their turn to vote during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Fe...
Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast, leaves a polling station after voting during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sun...
A ballot box at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
People line up to vote at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
A nun walks to cast her ballot at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Sebastián Sichel, left, of the center-right government coalition, leaves with his familty after voting during presidential elections in Santiago, Chil...
Nuns line up to vote at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast, shakes hand with supporter prior to casting his vote at a polling station during presidenti...
A nun holds the ballot papers at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
A woman holds the ballot papers at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
A woman inside a cabin holds the ballot papers for voting inside a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, ...
An electoral worker holds the ballot papers at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Es...
An electoral worker counts votes inside a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban F...
An electoral worker counts votes inside a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban F...
Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast stands before supporters with his wife Maria Pia Adriasola at his campaign headquarters afte...
Supporters of Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast gather outside Kast's election day headquarters after the announcement of part...
An electoral worker holds ballots at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Feli...
Supporters of presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, gather at his campaign head...
Supporters of Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast celebrate after the announcement of partial election results at his campaign h...
A supporter of Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast, wearing a MAGA hat, gathers with others outside Kast's election day headquar...
Supporters of Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast celebrate after the announcement of partial election results at his election d...
Supporters of Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast celebrate after the announcement of partial election results at his campaign h...
Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast gestures to supporters at his campaign headquarters after polls closed and partial results w...
Supporters of presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, gather at his election day ...
Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast and his wife Maria Pia Adriasola stand before supporters amid confetti at his campaign headq...
Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast and his wife Maria Pia Adriasola hold up Chilean flags toward supporters at his campaign hea...
A supporter of presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, gathers at his election da...
Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast speaks to supporters alongside his wife Maria Pia Adriasola at his campaign headquarters aft...
Supporters of presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, gather at his election day ...
Presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, waves a flag before supporters at his ele...
Presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, gestures with his hand on his heart befor...
Presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, sips water as he speaks to supporters aft...
Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast gestures to supporters after polls closed and partial results were announced at his campaign...
Presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, speaks to supporters after polls closed a...

Chilean presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, speaks to supporters during a clo...

Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast, takes a selfie with a supporter during a campaign rally in Valdivia, Chile, Wednesday, Nov....

Supporters of Chilean presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," I Approve of Dignity, gather for a closing c...

Chilean Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast, speaks to supporters during a campaign rally in Valdivia, Chile, Wednesday, Nov. 17...

Army officers talk inside of Monumental stadium that will serve as a polling station for Sunday's general elections, including presidential, in Santia...

Electoral workers train at a school that will serve as a polling station for Sunday's general elections, including presidential, in Santiago, Chile, F...

An Army officer walks inside a school that will serve as a polling station for Sunday's general elections, including presidential, in Santiago, Chile,...

An exit sign hangs over a soccer net at a school will serve as a polling station for Sunday's general elections, including presidential, in Santiago, ...

Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast, arrives at a polling station before voting during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile...

Sebastián Sichel of the center-right government coalition, arrives to vote during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (A...

People reflected on a ballot box wait their turn to vote during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Fe...

Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast, leaves a polling station after voting during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sun...

A ballot box at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

People line up to vote at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

A nun walks to cast her ballot at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Sebastián Sichel, left, of the center-right government coalition, leaves with his familty after voting during presidential elections in Santiago, Chil...

Nuns line up to vote at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast, shakes hand with supporter prior to casting his vote at a polling station during presidenti...

A nun holds the ballot papers at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

A woman holds the ballot papers at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

A woman inside a cabin holds the ballot papers for voting inside a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, ...

An electoral worker holds the ballot papers at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Es...

An electoral worker counts votes inside a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban F...

An electoral worker counts votes inside a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban F...

Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast stands before supporters with his wife Maria Pia Adriasola at his campaign headquarters afte...

Supporters of Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast gather outside Kast's election day headquarters after the announcement of part...

An electoral worker holds ballots at a polling station during presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Feli...

Supporters of presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, gather at his campaign head...

Supporters of Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast celebrate after the announcement of partial election results at his campaign h...

A supporter of Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast, wearing a MAGA hat, gathers with others outside Kast's election day headquar...

Supporters of Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast celebrate after the announcement of partial election results at his election d...

Supporters of Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast celebrate after the announcement of partial election results at his campaign h...

Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast gestures to supporters at his campaign headquarters after polls closed and partial results w...

Supporters of presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, gather at his election day ...

Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast and his wife Maria Pia Adriasola stand before supporters amid confetti at his campaign headq...

Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast and his wife Maria Pia Adriasola hold up Chilean flags toward supporters at his campaign hea...

A supporter of presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, gathers at his election da...

Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast speaks to supporters alongside his wife Maria Pia Adriasola at his campaign headquarters aft...

Supporters of presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, gather at his election day ...

Presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, waves a flag before supporters at his ele...

Presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, gestures with his hand on his heart befor...

Presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, sips water as he speaks to supporters aft...

Republican Party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast gestures to supporters after polls closed and partial results were announced at his campaign...

Presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of the political alliance "Apruebo Dignidad," or I Approve of Dignity, speaks to supporters after polls closed a...

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Two onetime outsiders hailing from opposite extremes of the political spectrum received the most votes Sunday in Chile’s presidential election but failed to garner enough support for an outright win, setting up a polarizing runoff in the region’s most advanced economy.

José Antonio Kast, a lawmaker who has a history of defending Chile’s military dictatorship, finished first with 28% of the vote compared to 26% for former student protest leader Gabriel Boric.

Kast, in a victory speech, doubled down on his far right rhetoric, framing the Dec. 19 runoff as a choice between “communism and liberty.” He blasted Boric as a puppet of Chile's Communist Party — a member of the broad coalition supporting his candidacy — who would pardon “terrorists," be soft on crime and promote instability in a country that has recently been wracked by protests laying bare deep social divisions.

“We don't want to go down the path of Venezuela and Cuba,” Kast, speaking from a lectern draped with a Chilean flag, told supporters in the capital. “We want a developed country, which is what we were aiming to become until we were stopped brutally by violence and the pandemic.”

In sharp contrast, Boric refrained from attacking Kast by name, accepting the results with humility and urging his supporters to listen to and convince doubters who voted for other candidates.

“Our crusade is for hope to defeat fear,” said Boric, speaking through a mask to supporters in his home town at the southern tip of the vast Patagonia region. “Our duty today is to convince others that we offer the best path to a more fair country."

A candidate who ran virtually from the U.S. without stepping foot in Chile led the pack of five other candidates trailing far behind. In Chile's electoral system, if no candidate secures a 50% majority, the two top finishers compete in a runoff.

The vote followed a bruising campaign that laid bare deep social tensions in the country. Also up for grabs is Chile’s entire 155-seat lower house of Congress and about half the Senate.

Boric, 35, would become Chile's youngest modern president. He was among several student activists elected to Congress in 2014 after leading protests for higher quality education. If elected he says he will raise taxes on the “super rich” to expand social services and boost protections of the environment.

He's also vowed to eliminate the country's private pension system — one of the hallmarks of the free market reforms imposed in the 1980s by Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.

Kast, 55, from the newly formed Republican Party, emerged from the far right fringe after having won less than 8% of the vote in 2017 as an independent. But he's been steadily rising in the polls this time with a divisive discourse emphasizing conservative family values as well as attacking migrants — many from Haiti and Venezuela — he blames for crime.

A fervent Roman Catholic and father of nine, Kast has also taken aim at the outgoing President Sebastian Pinera for allegedly betraying the economic legacy of Pinochet, which his brother helped implement as the dictator's central bank president.

Sebastian Sichel, a center right candidate who took around 12% of the vote, was the first among the losing candidates to position themselves in what's likely to be a heated runoff, telling supporters that under no circumstances would he vote for “the candidate from the left," a reference to Boric.

Meanwhile, Yasna Provoste, who finished with a similar amount, told her supporters on the center left that she could never be neutral in the face of a “fascist spirit that Kast represents."

Whoever wins will take over a country in the grips of major change but uncertain of its future course after decades of centrist reforms that largely left untouched Pinochet's economic model.

Pinera's decision to hike subway fares in 2019 sparked months of massive protests that quickly spiraled into a nationwide clamor for more accessible public services and exposed the crumbling foundations of Chile's “economic miracle.”

Gravely weakened by the unrest, Pinera begrudgingly agreed to a plebiscite on rewriting the Pinochet-era constitution. In May, the assembly charged with drafting the new magna carta was elected and is expected to conclude its work sometime next year.

Meanwhile, in a fresh sign of the tensions Pinera will leave behind, the billionaire president was impeached in the lower house before dodging removal by the Senate over an offshore business deal in which his family a decade ago sold its stake in a mining project while he was serving the first of two non-consecutive terms.

___

Goodman reported from Miami