Monday, December 18, 2017

Piñera Election Aftermath

Sebastián Piñera was once again elected president of Chile, winning the runoff against Alejandro Guillier, 54.6%-45.4%. The postauthoritarian political landscape has now shifted dramatically. For twenty years of the Concertación, the Christian Democrats anchored a strong center-left coalition that governed decidedly from the center. The binomial system incentivized coalition-building and there were two solid blocs.

That has now fallen apart. The Concertación ceased to exist. The Christian Democrats got 26% of the vote in the 1989 elections and 14% in 2017. The binomial system is gone and there are new wildcards such as no more obligatory voting and voting from abroad. Michelle Bachelet even brought the Communist Party in the coalition. José Mujica even visited Chile a few days ago to emphasize his support for Guillier, which may or may not have been a smart move.

That shift to the left was a key part of the presidential race. The old center-left is gone and there's nothing cohesive yet to replace it. The center was lost in this presidential shuffle--even Piñera felt the need to nod in the far right's direction to get their votes in the runoff. Meanwhile, over the years Chileans have become increasingly disenchanted with political parties and the legislature. This is not new. Some years ago I was part of a group that gave talks for the new U.S. Ambassador to Chile, and I noted that despite lack of faith in parties, there was no sign of populism in Chile. Although Guillier had a bit of that, given how new he was to politics, and although many Chilean conservatives would argue Bachelet was already going too far left, at least for now the political system remains intact. But the center in particular needs something to hold onto politically.


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