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Chile - 2017 General Election

Senator Isabel Allende, the daughter of former President Salvador Allende, announced 12 September 2016 her intention to seek the presidency in 2017. Allende, a current senator representing the Socialist party, made the announcement before a gathering of leaders of her party and said she will first seek their approval to run. She would then have to compete in a primary to represent the New Majority coalition, comprised of centrist and center-left parties. In the primaries, she would face off against former President Ricardo Lagos, who said earlier this month that he will run again for the country's highest office in 2017.

Current President Michelle Bachelet was elected into office representing the New Majority coalition, though a series of scandals around politicians financing their campaigns with illegal contributions and allegations of dubious business dealings by her daughter-in-law sapped Bachelet's political capital. Bachelet also faced consistent protests by students, who charge that her education reforms fell short of their demands. She was elected partially due to a commitment to establish free, quality post-secondary education. The president has also faced mass protests calling for the end of the country's private pension system.

Whoever is chosen to represent the New Majority coalition will likely compete against conservative former president Sebastian Piñera, who ruled from 2010 to 2014. He had yet to officially announce whether he will run for reelection, though he said he could make an announcement on the matter early in 2017. With a number of upstart leftist parties, there would also likely be at least a third candidate in the November general election.

In a January 2017 CEP (Center for Public Studies) survey, Sebastian Pinera led with 20% of preferences to the question "Who would you like to be the next president?" The former president avoided answering questions about his confirmation as presidential candidate for the elections this year. Alejandro Guillier ranked second with 14%. The third place was occupied by Ricardo Lagos, who got 5%; follows Manuel José Ossandón, Leonardo Farkas and José Miguel Insulza with 2% and finally appears Marco Enríquez-Ominami with 1%.

The results change when queried by ¿ Who do you think will be the next president? , Before that scenario Piñera increases the preferences to 27% while Guillier gets 13%.

Chileans headed to the polls 19 November 2017 to elect a successor to Michelle Bachelet, who completes her second, non-consecutive term as president of the South American nation. In 2013, Bachelet trounced her conservative rival, Evelyn Matthei with over 63 percent. However, just under 43 percent of eligible voters turnout out. In recent primaries, some 13 percent of voters participated. Meanwhile, massive protests persist in the country over a wide range of issues including pension and labor reform, rights of women and Indigenous Mapuche peoples, as well as education and health.

Chile's eight presidential candidates had 20 minutes of airtime night to present their campaign platforms in what is known as the "electoral slot" in the country's radio and television stations. Elections in Chile are complex, since roughly 60 percent of people who can vote don’t participate in elections. One of the main issues that will dominate this election will be the possibility of calling for a constituent assembly to change the Constitution, which was created in 1980 and approved in 1981 under the military regime of Augusto Pinochet.

Among the presidential candidates were former President Sebastian Piñera of the right-wing Chile Vamos party, Alejandro Guillier, an independent, Beatriz Sanchez of the leftist Broad Front, Carolina Goic of the conservative Christian Democracy Party and Jose Antonio Kast, a right-wing independent. Since the military dictatorship ended in 1990, the country's center-left parties had won the past four elections. The right wing and centrists only won once, when Piñera received a majority of votes in 2010.

Conservative billionaire Sebastian Piñera obtained 36 percent, followed by center-left candidate Alejandro Guillier from New Majority with 22.6 percent. With almost 85 percent of the votes accounted for in Chile's presidential election, Piñera would head to the second round with 36.65 percent where he faced Alejandro Guillier of the center-left New Majority coalition, who finished with 22.59 percent.

More than half of Chile's eligible voters, some 6.5 million people, did not participate in the election's first round. Turnout has been low since mandatory voting was scrapped in 2012.

The main shock from the first round was the Frente Amplio (Broad Front) coalition, headed by journalist Beatriz Sanchez, which took 20 percent of the vote, more than double pollsters' predictions. Far-right candidate Jose Antonio Kast exceeded expectations, but trailed with 7.9 percent, ahead of Carolina Goic of Christian Democrat party with 5.94 percent and Progressive Party candidate Marco Enriquez-Ominami with 5.55 percent. Leftist's Alejandro Navarro and Eduardo Artes each obtained around half a percentage point.

The Center-left sociologist and journalist, Alejandro Guillier, ran on a social democratic ticket as an independent supported by the New Majority coalition, which was the current ruling coalition backing President Michelle Bachelet. The first-term senator and former journalist who launched the popular TV show Zero Tolerance is commonly viewed as an “outsider,” which helps distinguish him from the leadership of Bachelet while also continuing the legacy of the coalition that had won nearly every election since Chile's return to democracy after the brutal military rule.

The New Majority is a diverse center-left coalition that includes the Communist Party, MAS Region, Citizen Left, Party for Democracy, Social Democrat Radical Party, and the Socialist Party. The Christian Democratic Party, which previously represented the center-right wing of the coalition, has left it to field their own candidates.

Right-wing businessman and former president from 2010 to 2014, Sebastian Piñera was backed by the Let's Go Chile coalition. The Independent Regionalist Party, Independent Democratic Union, National Renewal, Political Evolution, and Amplitude party were the original coalition backing him, although other right-wing forces have also thrown in their support after the first round of votes.

Piñera campaigned promising to implement neoliberal reforms, including laying off tens of thousands of public servants and closing down the Employment and Training Office. He also emphasized being tough on crime and drug trafficking and has criticized the Bachelet government for supposedly failing to do so. The first billionaire to have been Chile's president, the gaffe-prone Piñera was frequently accused of having conflicts of interest in Chilean politics.

The election was seen as a contest between a pro-social welfare course promised by Guillier, and a step back towards neoliberal orthodoxy favored by Piñera, a one-time follower of late dictator Augusto Pinochet. Education reform, growing inequality and a stagnant economy were the key issues for voters but many stayed home after a poor turnout in the first round of voting. People were thinking if Pinera came to power, maybe the rich will thrive and there will be more employment, but if the left stayed in power, with Guillier, then probably there would be more equality. The political system is transitioning from the very stable old order of the center left and center right coalition to something new and it remained to be seen what that new political order would look like.

Billionaire former President Sebastian Piñera defeated center-left Senator, Alejandro Guillier in Chile's presidential run-off. Piñera led with 54 percent of the vote with 82 percent of the vote tallied. Latin America's fifth-biggest economic power will be governed by a right-wing candidate for only the second time since 1990. The contest comes ahead of a long stretch of elections in Latin America in 2018 which will pit left and right against one another in Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela.

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Page last modified: 26-03-2020 18:53:10 ZULU