Today the second and definitive round of the Chilean presidential elections came to a close, with a disappointing voter turnout of 42%. Nevertheless, Michelle Bachelet’s victory came as no surprise and was anticipated even by her opponents. She won 62% of the vote and will lead the country with her New Majority (Nueva Mayoria) coalition from March. The New Majority consists of seven left-wing parties, and is dominated by Mrs. Bachelet’s Socialist Party (Partido Socialista (PS)). Nevertheless, the broad alliance that paved Mrs. Bachelet’s way into La Moneda, the government palace, will need lots of negotiating, once the campaign discipline fades. The Communist Party (Partido Comunista (PC)), for example, is likely to disagree on many occasions with the Christian Democrats (Democrata Cristiana (DC)) who have never had quarrels to support right-wing initiatives such as maintaining the Chilean tax system which advantages the actual owners of the country. Furthermore, Mrs. Bachelet’s clear victory conceals another awkward problem only she is able to resolve: the lack of political talent. One reason why Mrs. Bachelet’s predecessor, Sebastián Piñera, won a sweeping victory and wrested power from the left for the first time since the return of electoral democracy in 1989, was the lack of a serious left-wing candidate, and the law that forbids the office holder to stand for reëlection. Mr. Piñera’s predecessor was also Mrs. Bachelet, so a leadership crisis is in the making. If Mrs. Bachelet fails to present a successor, the left runs the risk to lose out again in the next election. Not necessarily because the right has a more apt candidate, but because people, here as everywhere, grow increasingly alienated from politicians and tend to vote for what they think the lesser evil as well as apparent change in direction.
Mrs. Matthei, Mrs. Bachelet’s this election’s opponent, gained 37% of the vote. She surely suffered from the nasty coalition infighting that nevertheless saw her gaining the Alianza’s (Alliance) candidature. The Alianza consists of only two parties; the Renovación Nacional (RN) (National Renewal), the incumbent’s party, and the Unión Demócrata Independiente (UDI) (Independent Democratic Union). Mrs. Matthei was member of RN, but went over to UDI after Mr. Piñera and his gang pushed her out in a conspiracy. The UDI is known as ‘Pinochet party’ because it legitimized the dictatorship by giving it democratic cover. Both parties were against the national referendum that abolished the dictatorship in 1989. It is no wonder that both parties are arms of hardline capitalists and the owners of the country. Especially the very rich suburbs of Santiago gained a lot during the dictatorship and vote unequivocally for Alianza parties. After 1989 the Alianza became also a ground for many of Pinochet’s henchmen, and to this day torturers and assassins occupy high public offices and live comfortably off public money. The individualistic, greedy character of those people is what made the emergence of Mrs. Matthei a loathsome process, and even turned away the newly-rich as potential voters. There was a lot of mudslinging from the start that forced an already approved candidate to resign. Mrs. Matthei then emerged relatively late as candidate and never was able to recover the ground Mrs. Bachelet’s campaign already won.
It is quite a novelty that two women compete for the post of head of state, especially in pretty sexist societies like the Chilean. I will blog about this in some later post. The next post, however, will be dedicated to Mrs. Matthei’s and Mrs. Bachelet’s personal history, which is actually the stuff Hollywood makes movies out of. So stay tuned, amigos.