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Opinion | Chile President-Elect Gabriel Boric Faces Challenge on Constitution

Any misstep in the process could undermine the credibility of a new Constitution — and provide fodder for supporters of the old order, including figures like Mr. Kast, to rally around rejecting it.

This is do-or-die for Mr. Boric.

With history as a guide, Mr. Boric starts off with reason to hope that Chilean society, at a pivotal moment for its democratic project, will choose wisely. Mr. Boric was only 2 years old when Chileans, in a historic plebiscite in 1988, rejected the military rule of Mr. Pinochet, setting Chile on a path to democracy and self-determination. Then, nearly 56 percent of voters said no to the dictator’s brutal regime, opening the door to a modern era of democracy and institutional growing pains.

More than 30 years later, by a similar margin, Mr. Boric’s message of hope and change prevailed over Mr. Kast’s dire warnings that Chile was on the precipice of abandoning this political and economic model, and descending into Communism. Fifty-six percent of the Chilean electorate rejected that message and voted for Mr. Boric, making him the youngest president to reach La Moneda, Chile’s presidential palace, and the candidate to receive the highest number of votes in a presidential contest in the nation’s history. Turnout likewise shattered records. Mr. Boric’s mandate is clear.

Yet the president-elect, for all his youthful energy and commitment to dignity, equality and the internment of neoliberalism, is keenly aware he’ll need more than just rhetoric to govern and make a reality the social promises that propelled him to power. In his same acceptance speech on Sunday, Mr. Boric was candid in his assessment that the future of his campaign promises — among them access to quality health care for all and overhauling Chile’s privatized pension system — will require consensus, meeting others in the middle, and taking “short but steady steps” in the face of a closely divided national Congress.

This is not the discourse of a onetime student leader who cut his teeth organizing marches for better public education and, in the process, found himself in the cross hairs of President Sebastián Piñera’s first administration nearly a decade ago. Mr. Boric’s newfound pragmatism is a promising early sign for the constitutional process, as the approach holds appeal for those voters who are neither highly progressive like him nor far-right sympathizers like Mr. Kast. But as he juggles forming a cabinet and leading a government on one hand, he will also need to blend intellectual rigor, communications skills, and a solemn urgency about future milestones in the constitutional process on the other. Nothing can be left to chance — and every person in his team, no matter their role, must make the new Constitution their true north in everything they do.

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