Leftist Chile presidential candidate leads new polls as run-off vote looms

FILE PHOTO: Chilean presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, of left-wing coalition 'Apruebo Dignidad' (I Approve Dignity), gestures as he attends a session at the congress in Valparaiso, Chile, November 24, 2021. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

SANTIAGO (Reuters) -Chilean leftist candidate Gabriel Boric was leading conservative Jose Antonio Kast in the latest polls released on Sunday ahead of the second round of the presidential election on Dec. 19.

The polarized run-off vote will set the political tone in the Andean country for the years ahead, with the two candidates pushing wildly different visions for the future of the world's top copper-producing nation.

The major Citizen Pulse poll from Activa Research showed likely voters heavily favored Boric, representing a coalition including the leftist Frente Amplio and the local Communist Party, with 53.9% support against Kast's 31.2%.

The online survey, carried out Nov. 23-26, polled 1,518 voters, with a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

A second poll from Cadem, which surveyed 1,000 people with a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, showed Boric ahead with 39% of voting preference versus 33% for Kast. There were still 28% who were undecided or did not intend to vote.

In a hypothetical run-off scenario, that result would translate into a 54%-46% win for Boric.

The polls, some three weeks out from the election, indicate that moderate voters may be more willing to shift their support to Boric than to Kast, a far-right candidate often likened to Brazil's blunt-talking President Jair Bolsonaro.

Kast has found a receptive audience for his "law and order" message, which helped him win the first round of voting on Nov. 21, though without the majority needed to win outright.

Boric, who rose to prominence as a student protest leader, got about 26% in the first round, a close second to Kast on some 28%. Analysts have said Boric needs to expand his support beyond his core of young, urban voters.

One of the big unknowns of the election is how much support liberal candidate Franco Parisi could pull after coming in third in the first round of voting. Both polls suggested more of his voters would shift to Boric, though many remained undecided.

(Reporting by Fabian Cambero, writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by David Gregorio and Chizu Nomiyama)

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