Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bachelet's approval is stable and abysmal

Michelle Bachelet’s November approval rating was 38.2%, almost identical to October’s 38.9%, and up from September’s amazing low of 35.3%.

She is getting close to the halfway point of her term, and this highlights a problem with Chile’s recent constitutional reform. We read constantly about the proposed end to term limits in Bolivia and Venezuela, but in Chile we see the drawbacks of the reverse, i.e. terms that are very short (four years) and do not allow for immediate re-election.

The result is that lame duck status comes very quickly. Unless she gets an unexpected and dramatic boost somehow, Bachelet’s low numbers mean she won’t recover politically in time to get anything substantive done. The fight to be the Concertación’s next candidate is already well underway.

I must say I don’t get the logic of denying immediate re-election, but allowing one nonconsecutive re-election. I don't see how an incumbent president is somehow less deserving than someone who sat out a term.


Daniel Brieba 1:31 PM  

The logic is simple enough: to prevent the incumbent President using the powers of his post (which under the Chilean Constitution are considerable) to turn the Executive into a reelection machinery. The (republican) ideal behind it is that the President belongs to all the citizens, whilst candidates are partisan. A President that used even part of his/her time for political campaigning would be intolerable for Chileans. Another reason is that, in such a Presidentialist regime, the figure of the President really has no rival media-wise and it would be very hard to defeat an incumbent- in fact, the only politicians who approach 100% recognition by the people in Chilean polls are ex Presidents, the President and defeated candidates for the Presidency. So all in all, with the power of the Executive behind him and the power of being a household name, an incumbent seeking reelection would impose a lopsided contest indeed.
I agree, however, with your comment on the length of the term- 4 years is too short. They should have left it at 6, as it was between 1994 and 2006.

Greg Weeks 4:17 PM  

I disagree about name recognition. Everyone knows the top contenders--even Bachelet achieved high name recognition in a relatively short time. Incumbents always have an advantage, and in Chile certainly the incumbent has a big media advantage as well, but the staggered terms doesn't solve that because an ex-president will have a semi-incumbent advantage anyway.

To avoid that problem, it would be preferable to stick to 6 years, one term.

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