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Elecciones en Chile, 2009. ¿Que Paso?

On the streets of Santiago, supporters of the arch-neoliberal candidacy of multi-billionaire Sebastián Piñera were celebrating the electoral victory of the right wing coalition against the once hegemonic ‘left-wing’ Concertación party. The Concertación, a left-wing coalition of Socialists and Christian Democrats, ruled Chile, uninterruptedly, since the return to democracy in 1989. They fielded former President Eduardo Frei (1993-1999), who left office with an approval rating of only 28 percent—imagine fielding George W. Bush for the presidency again and you get a feeling of how ‘unwise’ the decision was.

Unsurprisingly, the Concertación was only able to receive a mere 29.6 percent of the vote, largely in line with Frei’s popularity back in 1999. The Concertación was unable to get the message that voters wanted ‘real change’ and it nominated a former President who instituted much of the neoliberal reforms that Chilenos today are itching against. However, many commentators are making egregious mistakes in deciphering what is happening in Chile. They assume that the defeat of the Concertación is a defeat of the left and the ascendency of the right in Chile; if one were to actually look at the results the opposite is true.

To some commentators, Piñera’s ‘victory’ proves that the change Chilenos want is more neoliberalism, more of the same policies that have engendered the same pessimism and hopelessness that millions of Chilenos voted against. If one were to take the time to look back at the trends electorally we can see that the right-wing parties in this round actually got a smaller share of the vote than previous elections, post-1989:

RN+UDI, as a percentage of the total vote

1989: 44.83
1993: 40.84
1999 (1): 47.51
2000: 48.69
2006 (1): 48.64
2006: 46.50
2009 (1): 44.05

One can clearly see that for all the hype, the right in Chile has actually lost a lot of ground and has been reduced to generally the same constituency that it had in 1989; thus, it also obvious that the left in Chile has increased in strength, but not in cohesiveness. Chilenos do not want to have a more neoliberal government, what Chilenos want is another alternative. The Concertación is unable to offer that alternative, because it was the same party that legitimized and institutionalized neoliberalism structurally and democratically; however, it would be unfair to state that the Concertación was not forced to enact these policies, since Pinochet and Pinochetismo were potent forces politically after 1989. The Partido Communista, with the baggage of the Allende era, also is unable to offer a viable alternative, that being said, the party has increased its voting share from 5.4 percent in the 2006 election to 6.21 percent in 2009.

Enter Marco Enríquez-Ominami, popularly known as MEO. He protrudes an Obama/Clintonesqe style and offers not only a more progressive economic platform, but also a socially progressive platform as well. He was part of the Socialist Party wing within the Concertación party, but left the party raising objections to the candidacy of Frei. MEO did not have a clear platform, nor did he have an actual party organization behind him, but he was arguing for a new Chile, who has claimed to have sympathies to Chavez. I do not believe that MEO offered anything of real substance other than to become an ‘empty signifier’ for a nascent populist movement seeking change that no other party was able to give.

It is obvious that the Chilean ‘third way’, neoliberal state is reaching its limits of co-optation and demands are beginning to go beyond what the neoliberal ideology and state is able to concede. The second round will determine whether or not Piñera can articulate his vision of Chile as one of ‘change’, I do not think he will succeed, because the trend is to the left.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. you are an iggnorant poor mottherfuuker. you have no clue what you are talking about.
    is people like you that make the people south of el Rio Bravo hate America. The best you can do is keeop you fuukkiing mouth shut and shot yourself

  3. Interesting analysis. I think there isn´t a political force in Chile that can generate a real change. The absurd vote system called "binominal" forces an eternal tie in the elections, and this in turns make almost impossible to any political group to have enough representation in both Congreso and Camara de Diputados to make deeeper changes.

  4. WHY? Why do foreign people keep hoisting Allende as some kind of political superstar? I read your comment on The Economist about Allende being the one that Chile has to thank for anti-seismic construction...Chile has been an earthquake zone far before the inefficient communist president even was born...and laws started far before him. You also mention that Pinera did not get a majority in the first round. I think you covered a different election process. He had the majority (not enough to win in the first round). The second majority went to Frei...
    WHY do you make up stuff?
    Plus,, while it's true that RN+UDI hasn't won more adepts, you are missing the point that all the independents are sick an tired of the Concertacion..and they are also supporting (in part) Pinera's option.
    I only hope that he does a good government, and that foreign people keep an open mind, and search for the facts before analyzing...

  5. well, hope you to give us some ideas to improve our society. Clearly, here is just moans.

  6. I have followed you analysis from Economist magazine. I appreciated your views about, Chile earthquake and the importance of the code in construction during Allende government. It is not only N. Klein the one that mentioned, but voices from the “Pontificia Universidad Catolica” made some comments in the newspaper El Mercurio. Well, keep us thinking that the free market economy is not the panacea for Latin America It is only focus in profit for a few. Thanks Mapuche


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