Analysis FAES Chile Presidential Elections 2017


Aldo Cassinelli y Constanza Castillo

Aldo Cassinelli is Executive Director of Instituto Libertad from Chile, and Constanza Castillo is researcher in the same institution and former scholarship FAES

The election that took place on November 19th in Chile left some surprises and enough material for many electoral analyses. First, the implementation at the parliamentary and presidential level of several laws related to the electoral system, financing and propaganda. At the same time, the fact that this election will influence the grouping of political forces for the second presidential round and the configuration of the future national Congress.

At the presidential level some milestones are so clear that it is difficult not to mention them at the beginning. For instance, the irrelevance of the Partido Demócrata Cristiano, PDC (Christian Democratic Party). Even though they are still part of the governmental coalition led by Michelle Bachelet from La Moneda Palace, they decided to take the so-called own path (“camino propio”) with Carolina Goic. This led them to become a marginal political force at the presidential level with less than 6% of the votes.

Over the last years, this collectivity has shifted in ambiguity; from being the pivotal axis of the biggest political coalition ever in Chile along with the Partido Socialista (Socialist Party), giving life to the already extinguished Concertación (Coalition), to be the tail end of a political-pragmatic agreement called Nueva Mayoría (New Majority), in which the Partido Comunista (Communist Party) led the way and they obeyed. The result is not far from the expectations made by many analysts and politicians from different sectors.

The candidate of Fuerza de la Mayoría (Majority Force coalition), Alejandro Guillier, the governing coalition (without the PDC) did not have any better luck. Even tough he obtained around 22 points, this is the lowest voting record ever achieved by the traditional left coalition of the country. This alliance formed by the Partido Socialista (Socialist Party), Partido por la Democracia (Party for Democracy), Radicales (Radical Party) and the Partido Comunista (Communist Party) did not achieve to mobilize their electorate, even considering the President herself played for this to happen.

In this case, the relevant issue is that with the aforementioned voting they managed to pass to the second round and thus have the opportunity to compete for the presidency of the country.

In the case of the center-right, circumstances were not so different in terms of surprises. The emergence of an alternative candidate such as José Antonio Kast, who ran for election alone as an independent candidate and without the support of Chile Vamos (Chile let’s go) and who defended the most conservative ideas of the sector, managed to significantly get 8% of the general votes. Using a direct discourse, full of winks to the more conservative right and the military system, he mobilized those voters yearning for someone who competes for his beliefs and not for winning, where principles are more important than the possibility of an electoral win. Thus, it was at stake a more pragmatic right against a more dogmatic one.

Even though Sebastián Piñera, the candidate from the center-right main coalition of parties, managed to get the highest record of votes and drift apart in more than 14 points from his main rival, the feeling after the vote count is not the best. Maybe high expectations played against him, since he was depicted as the winner, even if this might happen in the second round.

Now the task is to fix his team, include new faces, modify its message and rearticulate its coalition; many things to do within four weeks to face the final election. Although he holds the first option, since he counts with the votes of the independent candidate as a baseline, which leaves him with practically 44% of the preferences.

Finally, the biggest surprise of these elections was the high percentage of votes obtained by the candidate of the so-called Frente Amplio (Broad Front), Beatriz Sánchez, a journalist without political experience who joined the presidential race in the last moment and who was less than 2 points away of ousting the center-left coalition with its 20% and thus make it to the second round. Representing a more radical position in the political spectrum, she managed to gather many young people without any previous political identification but with multiple social causes who have seen in her an alternative to the established power.

Although the irruption of a political force like this is not new, it already happened in 2009 with other leftist candidate, Marco Enríquez-Ominami, the newness is that now there are many small citizens associations which have taken political representation to be able to compete. Moreover, the great difference is that Frente Amplio (Broad Front) achieved a representation in Congress of 20 deputies and 1 senator, which turns them into a relevant force in the next Congress which will be set up on March 2018.

To some extent it is in the hands of this new political force the election of the new President of Chile, either through an explicit support for the traditional left candidate or through the absence of definition, which could avoid that electoral flow to lean towards an alternative and allows the candidate of the center-right to win with the votes obtained by Kast.

Doubtlessly the discussion and political debate in Chile will not end with the result of the second round.

Translation by María Maseda

#Center-Right #Elecciones #Chile #Sebastián Piñera