quinta-feira, 22 de outubro de 2009

150) Un poquito mas de Chile, por supuesto...

CHILE: Presidential elections appear increasingly open
Latin America Weekly Review, Oxford Analytica
Wednesday, October 21 2009

EVENT: Independent presidential candidate Marco Enriquez-Ominami is tied with the governing coalition's candidate, Eduardo Frei, on 20% of voting intentions, according to a poll published yesterday.
SIGNIFICANCE: Less than two months before Chile goes to the polls to elect its president for the next four years, the result appears increasingly uncertain. However, it is clear that the election will herald changes for the Concertacion, the centre-left coalition that has governed since 1990.
ANALYSIS: Forged in opposition to the 1973-90 Pinochet dictatorship, the governing
Concertacion coalition spans an unusually large spectrum of political opinion, ranging from the centre Christian Democrat Party (PDC) to the Socialist Party (PS). Combined with the right-wing opposition's association with the dictatorship, this broad appeal helped to give it four terms in office, but its diversity now appears to have become a liability. It had difficulty selecting its nominee for the next presidential election and, on December 13 when Chileans go to the polls, voters will find three current or former members of the coalition on the ballot paper:
· the PDC's Senator Eduardo Frei as its official candidate;
· Marco Enriquez-Ominami, a former PS member running as an independent (see CHILE:
Enriquez-Ominami paves way for younger leaders - September 7, 2009); and
· Jorge Arrate, also a former PS member, for the far Left; but
· only one candidate, Sebastian Pinera, for the opposition Alianza por Chile coalition (see CHILE: Pinera front-runner in December elections - June 2, 2009).
Given the existence of a second-round ballot, this does not necessarily spell defeat for the Concertacion. However, it does illustrate increasing policy differences within the coalition and its growing tendency to bicker.
Policy divergence. In the 1990s, the Concertacion was defined and united as the antidote to the Pinochet dictatorship. Its prime concern then was the stability of Chile's return to democracy.
Particularly through to 1998, while General Augusto Pinochet stayed on as army commander, this forced a cautious approach, suppressing underlying disagreements on issues such as human-rights trials and constitutional reform. However, with political stability ensured, discrepancies have since surfaced:
· In the 1990s, the Concertacion faced clear challenges in the form of a low per capita income, a high poverty rate and, for example, a yawning public-infrastructure deficit. It addressed these problems through policies -- principally free-market economics tempered by social programmes, macroeconomic discipline and international integration -- on which there was broad political consensus.
· However, increased prosperity has heightened expectations and, with simpler problems solved, those that remain -- such as improving educational standards now that coverage is virtually universal -- are more complex (see CHILE: 'Last mile' to development the hardest - March 11, 2009). This has led to increasing differences within the Concertacion between, for example, those favouring more state intervention (found both on the Right and Left of the coalition) and liberals (mostly in the centre of the coalition) who emphasise individual choice and see the market as the most efficient mechanism for allocating resources.
Infighting. Like the opposition coalition, the Concertacion has been held together by the binominal electoral system left in place by the dictatorship. Under this system, constituencies return two representatives to each house of Congress, favouring the existence of two broad coalitions. In both coalitions, this forced cohabitation has proved a breeding ground for infighting, but this is currently most acute in the Concertacion:
· The 'old guard' of leaders who founded the Concertacion in the 1980s, many of whom were active in politics before 1973, has failed to make way for younger leaders, eager for a greater share of power (and with a fresher appeal to voters).
· After 20 years in office, the coalition has tired and, according to some of its members, they have also wearied of each other.
· A reduction in the presidential term of office from six to four years under a constitutional reform in 2005 (see CHILE: Government coalition faces improved prospects - September 9, 2005) means that congressional and presidential elections now coincide. As a result, members of Congress who plan to seek re-election tend to curry favour with the next likely presidential candidate, rather than showing loyalty to the incumbent president.
First post-Pinochet election. Moreover, the Concertacion is facing its first presidential election since Pinochet's death in December 2006. Although he had already lost political influence, this had symbolic importance for the Concertacion, depriving it of its 'common enemy'. Moreover, it helped to reduce the automatic support, previously commanded by the Concertacion among many voters, for its role in re-establishing democracy.
As a result, this is perhaps the first election not fought on 'yes-no' lines (referring to the way people voted in the 1988 referendum on Pinochet's continuance in power). This is particularly so because Pinera has indicated that he voted 'no' and claims to have played an active role in the 'no' campaign.
Uncertain election result. This is also the first presidential election since 1990 in which the opposition candidate is the poll frontrunner. However, as the election approaches, uncertainty as to the result has increased:
· Polls indicate that Pinera will not obtain the absolute majority required for a first-round victory, forcing a run-off ballot on January 17 when, until recently, it seemed virtually certain that Frei would be his contender. However, Enriquez-Ominami, a charismatic 36-year-old lower house representative, has successfully captured voters' desire for change to the detriment of 67-year-old Frei who, as a former president (1994-2000), is widely perceived as already having had his chance. As a result, it could be Enriquez-Ominami who goes through to the runoff.
· According to most polls, Pinera would defeat Frei in the run-off, if by a narrow margin.
However, two recent newspaper polls suggest that, if his opponent were Enriquez-Ominami, the result would be even closer (within both polls' margin of error).
Concertacion regrouping. The Concertacion had initially ruled out a second-round alliance with Enriquez-Ominami but, given his rise in the polls, has begun to consider this option. Similarly, Enriquez-Ominami, who has been on bad terms with Concertacion party leaders, has begun to make tentative overtures. The form that such an alliance could take is not clear and it remains doubtful that it would be capable of snatching victory from Pinera. However, it would mean significant changes in the Concertacion, whether in government or opposition:
· It would inevitably imply ceding power to younger leaders, including Enriquez-Ominami -- whom the Concertacion would no longer be able to dismiss as a rebel and scapegoat for its possible defeat -- as well as others who are running for Congress and are likely to achieve strong majorities.
· These younger politicians have closer ties across party lines than the old guard which exercises power through party machines. This suggests that the Concertacion could move towards an institutional framework, the lack of which has long been recognised as a disadvantage.
· The Concertacion, which, due largely to the PDC's influence, has taken a conservative position on issues such as abortion (still illegal in Chile even when a mother's life is at risk) and homosexual civil unions, would move towards more liberal positions in line with changing public opinion.
CONCLUSION: The December election is the most uncertain since the restoration of democracy in 1990, both as regards its result and its implications for the coalition that has dominated Chilean politics for the past 20 years. Barring a reform of the electoral system, the Concertacion will survive, whether in opposition or government, but almost certainly not under its current leadership.

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