Análisis What is at stake in Chile presidential elections?

18/11/2017

Isabel Pla, Fundación Avanza Chile

On Sunday 19th November eight candidates fight for the presidency of the Republic of Chile. Although there is always certain level of uncertainty, everything suggests that none of the eight candidates will obtain the 50% plus one that our democratic system demands for being elected; and so the next President will be elected in a second round on December 17th.

Then, the real dispute will be between the former President Sebastián Piñera, representative of the center-right coalition Chile Vamos (Chile let’s go); and Alejandro Guillier, a famous journalist, elected senator four years ago and today presidential standard bearer of the pro-government coalition Nueva Mayoría (New Majority), composed by center-left parties and the Communist Party. According to the last published surveys in the country, before the siege imposed by a law promulgated last year (15 days before elections), next Sunday Sebastián Piñera would obtain above 40% of votes and Guillier under 30% of votes.

This is a particularly decisive election for the future of our country. For the first time, since the return to democracy in 1990, Chile faces two roads that seem irreconcilable, in a definition preceded by years of polarization.

On March 2014 Michelle Bachelet came back to La Moneda Palace to serve for a second presidential mandate. Her distinguished features have been, first, her evident turn towards the left compared to her first mandate, with the prevailing influence of the Communist Party in the more transcendent political decisions. Then, a speech based on the vision of Chile as a country infringed by inequality, a victim of the “usual power elite” (the slogan her Government used to spread a controversial tax reform). And a plan of structural reforms, of special symbolism for the most purist left anchored in the past, which abandons the traditional social democrat moderation prioritized during the years of the Concertación and has negatively impacted the economy.

Since she came to power public debt has been doubled and growth has been reduced to a third placing Chile in a deteriorated situation in comparison with the leadership it held until 2013 in Latin America. This has generated discomfort and uncertainty in an enormous middle class, who perceived that spaces of liberty and progress, achieved thanks to its own effort and merit during the last three decades, have been snatched away.

For these reasons, both President Bachelet and her reforms have held during more than three years high levels of citizens rejection, being the Government with the lowest levels of approval since 1990. This had an impact on municipal elections in 2016, in which the center-left obtained its worst results in the last 30 years (while the center-right obtained its best results).

Therefore, what is at stake next Sunday is the path Chile will take not for the next four years but most probably for the next decade.
On the one hand, the path represented by Alejandro Guillier, as a follower of Bachelet (“my historical mission is to take over the Government of our President”); he promises the deepening of reforms, the transformation of the services offered by the State in “guaranteed social rights” and more restrictions to the participation of the private world and the civil society in areas such as education and health. In the economic domain, the pro-government candidate has proved the lack of solid and well-known teams, with a weak program and, above all, ambiguous, when they risk in a second round the backup if an even more extreme left, which today supports Beatriz Sánchez, the candidate from the Frente Amplio (Broad Front); the Chilean comparison with the Spanish Podemos.
On the other hand, the path represented by Sebastian Piñera, whose political project looks for the combination of principles such as liberty, justice, progress and solidarity and to propel again a network for support the middle class, from birth to old age, and to revalorize merit as a motor of social improvement. In addition, it can be added the experience of having already been President of Chile, where further of the complex social movements that took place in 2011, he had a country that grew in record numbers, created more than a million jobs, was able to reconstruct from the fifth worst earthquake registered, that took place on February 27th 2010 barely 11 days before assuming presidency.

Nevertheless, there is an even more essential promise, and this is, probably, the one which truly makes a difference between the two paths. In the past few days, when it came out more notably the idea of a new presidential project, Piñera has achieved to state that his will be a government of unity and that his fundamental purpose is the search of agreements with all the political forces that are willing to be part of it, to surpass those obstacles the country faces from many years and that separate us from the full human and economic development, of a culture of truly equality of opportunities.

In other words, the leader of Chile Vamos (Chile let’s go) expects to start a new cycle, which surpass the political breakdown that has kept us divided for 40 years. If for the new generations the axis dictatorship-democracy is useless, if the polarization between right and left in the last few years only created setbacks and bad news, the former President Sebastián Piñera holds today the leadership, the citizens support and the opportunity to create a new cycle, with huge expectations for a country that expects more than the dispute between two sides and that will be defined, essentially, between progress and standstill and uncertainty, between future and past.

Traducido por María Maseda

#Elecciones #Chile #Sebastián Piñera #Alejandro Guillier