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Chile - Politics

03 Nov 197011 Sep 1973Salvador Allende GossensPS-UP
11 Sep 197311 Mar 1990Augusto José Ramón Pinochet UgarteMilitary
11 Mar 199011 Mar 1994Patricio Aylwin AzócarPDC
11 Mar 199411 Mar 2000Eduardo Frei Ruiz-TaglePDC
11 Mar 200011 Mar 2006Ricardo Froilán Lagos EscobarPPD
11 Mar 200611 Mar 2010Verónica Michelle Bachelet JeriaPS
11 Mar 201011 Mar 2014 Miguel Juan Sebastián Piñera EcheniqueRN/Ind

Since winning independence in 1818, Chile has a history of civilian rule surpassed by that of few countries in the world. In the nineteenth century, Chile became the first country in Latin America to install a durable constitutional system of government, which encouraged the development of an array of political parties. Military intervention in politics has been rare in Chile, occurring only at times of extraordinary social crisis, as in 1891, 1924, 1925, 1932, and 1973. These interventions often brought about massive transformations; all the fundamental changes in the Chilean political system and its constitutions have occurred with the intervention of the armed forces, acting in concert with civilian politicians.

From 1932 to 1973, Chile built on its republican tradition by sustaining one of the most stable, reformist, and representative democracies in the world. Although elitist and conservative in some respects, the political system provided for the peaceful transfer of power and the gradual incorporation of new contenders. Undergirding that system were Chile's strong political parties, which were often attracted to foreign ideologies and formulas. Having thoroughly permeated society, these parties were able to withstand crushing blows from the Pinochet regime of 1973-90.

A military coup overthrew Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973. As the armed forces bombarded the presidential palace, Allende reportedly committed suicide. A military government, led by General Augusto Pinochet, took over control of the country. The regime was marked by serious human rights violations and the stifling of civil liberties and political expression. Through a new authoritarian constitution, approved by a plebiscite on September 11, 1980, General Pinochet became President of the Republic for an 8-year term. In its later years, the regime gradually permitted greater freedom of assembly, speech, and association, to include trade union activity. In contrast to its authoritarian political rule, the military government pursued decidedly laissez-faire economic policies. During its 16 years in power, Chile moved away from economic statism toward a largely free market economy that fostered an increase in domestic and foreign private investment.

In a plebiscite on October 5, 1988, Chileans voted for elections to choose a new president and the majority of members of a two-chamber congress, denying General Pinochet a second 8-year term as president. On December 14, 1989, Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin, the candidate of a coalition of 17 political parties called the Concertacion, was elected president. Pinochet remained as commander-in-chief of the Army until 1998, when he became senator for life. Aylwin served from 1990 to 1994 and was succeeded by another Christian Democrat, Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle (son of Frei Montalva), leading the same coalition, for a 6-year term. Ricardo Lagos Escobar of the Socialist Party and the Party for Democracy led the Concertacion to a narrower victory in the 2000 presidential elections. His term ended on March 11, 2006, when President Michelle Bachelet Jeria, of the Socialist Party, took office for a 4-year term.

Chile's successful economic model did not change much under Bachelet. Achieving higher rates of economic growth remained a priority for Chile, but the Bachelet government sought to combine this with social justice, poverty alleviation and a reduction of big inequalities in income between the rich and the poor. The government also pursued a programme to reform the health, social security and education systems as well as further constitutional reform. The Bachelet government was initially handicapped however, by its lack of a commanding majority in Congress. This changed in December 2005, when, for the first time, the center-left coalition obtained a majority in the parliamentary elections.

The Pinochet-era electoral system makes it very difficult for any one party to gain a significant majority in Congress. The framework that Pinochet and his allies created cannot easily be dismantled. Chile's electorate of roughly eight million has changed little in the last twenty years and is largely composed of people who registered to participate in the 1988 plebiscite. Participation in presidential elections has steadily decreased. Few young people register to vote because inscription is voluntary, while voting is mandatory. Congress approved legislation to make inscription automatic and voting voluntary, but the law was not implemented for the 2009 election. There are no absentee or overseas voting mechanisms, so individuals who cannot vote because they are geographically too distant have to abstain.

The incidence of terrorist activity and civil disturbance is low in Chile, and the violence that has occurred has had little impact on the Chilean economy. Crime rates are moderate throughout the country, and the vast majority of crimes are nonviolent. During the last 10 years there have been relatively few incidents of politically motivated attacks on investment projects or installations. In 2011, there were occasional incidents of vandalism of storefronts and public transport during student protests over education reform, some of which included violent incidents. Incidents of anti-American sentiment and civil disorder are rare, and there have been no attacks by international terrorist organizations. However, since 2007 Chile has experienced a number of small-scale bombings targeting mostly banks, but also a police station, a political memorial and the UK Embassy, and most recently, the offices of a major newspaper and magazine publisher and a prominent Catholic cathedral. Anarchist groups have claimed credit for some of the bombs. There have also been violent incidents in farms and forestry plantations in southern Chile. These incidents in southern Chile are related to the land claims of indigenous people (the Mapuche Native American group) in the VIII and IX Regions.

Chile's presidential and congressional elections took place 13 December 2009. Voters also elected 18 of the 38 senators and all members of the Chamber of Deputies in elections generally considered free and fair. For the first time in 20 years, the Chile's center-right coalition, Alianza, won more seats in Congress than did the governing center-left coalition, Concertacion. Despite this symbolic loss, the overall balance in Congress did not change dramatically. The Concertacion regained its majority in the Senate. Other notable changes included more than doubling the number of women senators, the election of Communist Party candidates for the first time in nearly 40 years, and the defeat of several old-time political heavyweights by younger (but well-connected) challengers.

The biggest surprise in this election was not the overall balance of power in Congress but rather the electorate's enthusiasm for new faces over incumbents. Out of 120 seats, voters elected 45 new parliamentarians to the Chamber of Deputies, many of whom defeated very experienced and well-known politicians. Emblematic politicians who were defeated by younger, less experienced challengers include two-time conservative presidential candidate Joaquin Lavin, Chamber of Deputies President Rodrigo Alvarez, and three-term progressive Senator Jaime Gazmuri. On the other hand, many in Chile have been calling for a political renewal that would expand political participation to include a younger generation and more average citizens as opposed to the political elite.

President Bachelet, Chile's immensely popular leader, was constitutionally precluded from seeking immediate re-election. The electoral system is based on the 1980 Constitution and requires a candidate to receive 50 percent of the votes plus one to win in the first round of voting. There were four candidates vying to succeed her, and three had a chance of making it to the second round.

  1. Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle: a Christian Democrat and the Concertacion candidate, Frei was attempting to regain the presidency that he held from 1994-2000 and that his legendary father, Eduardo Frei Montalva, held from 1964-1970. Smart, dependable, honest, and dull, Frei represented both stability and stagnant politics.
  2. Sebastian Pinera: a Harvard-educated billionaire and former Senator, Pinera was the Alianza candidate from the RN party. This was Pinera's second serious run for the presidency. He hoped to win as the agent of responsible change - someone who will invigorate the country without altering popular social welfare programs.
  3. Marco Enriquez-Ominami: a 36 year-old filmmaker and former member of the Socialist party, Enriquez-Ominami is an upstart, independent candidate. His surprisingly successful campaign was attributed more to his colorful background and the public's dissatisfaction with the political establishment than any substantive accomplishments or vision.
  4. Jorge Arrate: also a former member of the Socialist party, he ws the far-left candidate for the Juntos Podemos (Together We Can) coalition composed of the Humanist/Communist parties. Although he is a well-respected statesman who served as minister three times, he was not expected to advance to the second round.

This was the fifth time Chileans had gone to the polls to elect a president since the 1988 plebiscite ended the Pinochet dictatorship. The previous four elections produced victories for the Concertacion, a center-left coalition of four political parties (Socialist Party - PS, the Party for Democracy - PPD, the Radical Social Democrat Party - PRSD, Christian Democrats - DC). The Alianza, a conservative coalition composed of the Revolucion Nacional (RN) and Independent Democratic Union (UDI) parties, sought its first chance to govern since the return to democracy in 1990.

Differences in policies between the leading presidential candidates were minimal, although Pinera emphasizes the role of the private sector and Frei emphasizes that the government could do more and do it better. The real theme of the presidential election is continuity (building on good policies of prior Concertacion governments) versus change (arguing for a new governing coalition after 20 years of Concertacion rule) and how the candidates can sell themselves to voters looking at both factors. The other main themes center around the campaign process: the surprisingly strong unity of the right behind Pinera (in the last presidential election the right has run competing candidates in the first round), the weak Frei campaign that has failed to take advantage of President Bachelet's extremely high popularity, and the unexpected surge of Enriquez-Ominami.

In the first round of presidential elections, none of the four presidential candidates won more than 50% of the vote. As a result, the top two vote-getters--center-left Concertacion coalition's Eduardo Frei and center-right Alianza coalition's Sebastian Pinera--competed in a run-off election on January 17, 2010, which Pinera won. This was Chile's fifth presidential election since the end of the Pinochet era. All five have been judged free and fair. The President is constitutionally barred from serving consecutive terms. Piñera was previously a highly successful businessman, owing a TV station, a football team, and about 25% of Chile’s national airline, LAN.

Chilean politics, and especially the Concertacion, was described in recent years as stale, boring, and inflexible. Despite frequent public conversations about how to renew and refresh the political system, include younger leaders in prominent roles, encourage young people to vote, and battle small-scale corruption, the political system seemed to be frozen in place. Pinera's election shattered this calcified system.

But Pinera, a billionaire whose stand-offish manner contrasted with Bachelet's common touch, was an unpopular president and faced a surge in popular discontent with many of the poor feeling they had not benefited from Chile's copper riches. Pinera announced cuts in the education budget in early 2011. Demonstrators looted stores, barricaded streets, set fires and threw rocks during protests against President Sebastian Pinera's policies. Pinochet's legacy lives on in a privatized education system, the subject of regular student protests, which Bachelet pledged to reform.

By late 2013, Michelle Bachelet seemed a safe bet to return to power in Chile's presidential election. Bachelet had between 30-40 percent support in polls, well ahead of her nearest opponent, Evelyn Matthei of the rightist Alianza coalition, who was polling between 12-23 percent. With seven other candidates standing in the first round of voting on 17 November 2013 a run-off in December seemed certain, which Bachelet should comfortably win. The moderate socialist got nearly 47 percent of the vote, conservative Evelyn Matthei won 25 percent. Her Nueva Mayoria coalition includes moderate leftists and communists, the later brought in for the first time in hopes their links with protesters and community groups would help keep the peace.

Bachelet pledged to address social inequalities, increase corporate taxes, close tax loopholes, and spend more on healthcare She also promised to reform an education system that favored those who can pay, something that had been the focus of sometimes violent student protests. She also wanted a new constitution that would reduce the high number of votes needed to pass laws, introduce a new electoral system that is more representative of voting patterns, and lure more women into politics.

But Bachelet's coalition seemed unlikely to win the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution. All 120 lower house seats and 20 out of 38 Senate seats were also being contested. Bachelet's coalition won 51 percent of the votes in the Senate and 48 percent in the lower chamber.

Chileans handed moderate socialist former President Michelle Bachelet a new four-year term with a landslide victory in a runoff election December 15, 2013. Center-right opponent Evelyn Matthei conceded defeat after the results showed Bachelet received an unbeatable 62 percent of the vote. Matthei had 38 percent. Bachelet would take over in March from outgoing conservative President Sebastian Pinera.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet asked all her Cabinet ministers to submit their resignations on 07 May 2015 while she decides who stays and who leaves in the next 72 hours. Bachelet was faced with the lowest approval ratings of her political career, and acknowledged that corruption scandals had rocked her administration. Chile's corruption is among the lowest in South America. But trust in politicians and the business elite had been eroded amid a recent bank loan scandal involving Bachelet's son, as well as a campaign financing scandal involving right-wing politicians and a prominent financial company.

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 with 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, Conservative billionaire Sebastian Piñera will head to the second round with 36.65 percent where he will face with Alejandro Guillier of the center-left New Majority coalition, who finished with 22.59 percent.

Beatriz Sanchez of the Broad Front coalition trails in a close third with 20.40 percent of the total vote, well above the poll numbers predicted for the new left candidate. Far-right candidate Jose Antonio Kast 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.





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