Previews in Chile

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By EMIR SADER*

Turnarounds and Renewals for the October Chilean Presidential Elections

What should have been just the definition of candidates from the right and left for the October presidential elections in Chile, ended up representing important changes and renewals in the main candidates for these elections. The electoral system provided for internal consultations in each force to define who would be its candidate in October. Only one right-wing and one left-wing bloc chose this democratic definition. Other forces, including the alliance between the Socialist Party and Christian Democracy – Convergencia – which had governed the country until recently, did not make use of this type of consultation.

The first positive surprise was the participation of the population, greater than in previous consultations. But the main phenomenon in this greater participation was that of young people, which certainly had a lot to do with the surprising results. Since Chile ended compulsory voting – now under review in Congress – participation in elections has dropped dramatically, reaching very low levels. The main absentees were young people, privileged victims of political discredit campaigns. Generations did not even take away their electoral title.

This began to change with the large mobilizations that began in 2019, which went through a plebiscite and led to the convening and election of a Constituent Convention, which begins to draft a new Constitution for Chile. Young people were the protagonists of these demonstrations and began to vote in an ever-increasing proportion.

In the internal consultation of the right and left, the reflex was a change in the results predicted by the researches. On the right, the main historic leader of the Chilean right, Joaquim Lavin, given as the candidate for the presidential elections, was defeated by a politician who was from the Christian Democracy and presented himself as an independent, Sebastien Sichel, with more moderate positions. His victory also represents an obstacle for the DC to have its own candidate, given that Sichel has already received votes from that current, became known and defeated the extreme right. The center or the search for candidates of a “third way”, diminishes its space.

Something similar, but of much greater expression, happened in left field. Firstly because, showing its strength, the left consultation had more participation than the right, demonstrating how it competes with good prospects in the October elections. Second, because it projected a left-wing renewal candidacy, which was carried out during the campaign, led by the Frente Ampla – front of several groups of the Chilean new left, which emerged within the framework of student mobilizations, which became national mobilizations.

Until the consultation, the favorite of the left was a young leader of the Communist Party, Daniel Jadue, who came to lead the last general poll for president, with 17%, followed by Lavin with 15%. With a confident performance in debates and counting on the party apparatus, he was considered the likely candidate of the left in October.

In the Frente Ampla, Beatriz Sanchez, presidential candidate in 2017, with a surprising 20% ​​vote, did not want to run again, making room for some new leadership. It was this space that was filled by Gabriel Boric, a leader who emerged in the student demonstrations, currently a lawyer, who recently turned 35 – the minimum age to be a candidate for president in Chile.

Boric presented himself with a renewing platform for the Chilean left – ecological, feminist, decentralizing, among other aspects – and surprised. She had more than a million votes, with 300 votes for Jadue and 60% of the votes. His more democratic style, available to listen to proposals and criticisms, appeared to be more consistent with the renewal of the Chilean left, as opposed to Jadue's harder and more rigid style. Both in the case of the consultation on the right and in the case of the left, traditional parties were defeated – the UDI, on the right, the Communist Party, on the left, overcome by an independent candidate on the right and the Frente Ampla on the left.

Boric's victory represents a major victory for the Frente Ampla and projects him as a strong candidate in the October elections for president in Chile. As in the case of the victory of a moderate right-wing candidate, Boric takes space from the Concertação and, in particular, from the Socialist Party, of which a part has already voted for Boric in the internal consultation of the Frente Ampla.

Boric's first task will be to consolidate the support of the Communist Party and the sectors that supported Jadue. He immediately spoke out in support of Boric and called for unity so that the left could win in October. The second task is to win the support of the Socialist Party, isolating the Christian Democracy and conquering forces from the center-left in Chile, in order to constitute itself as a national majority force.

Boric already declared, in his victory speech, that “neoliberalism, which was born in Chile, will die in Chile”, revealing the conscience of the character that his government must have. Unlike the Concertación governments, which maintained the neoliberal model inherited from Pinochet. It will also be able to count on the new Constitution, which should liquidate the remnants of the Pinochet constitution.

Boric has a big challenge ahead of him, first of all winning the October election. Then, adding Chile to the bloc of progressive, anti-neoliberal countries in Latin America.

*Emir Sader He is a retired professor in the Department of Sociology at USP. Author, among other books, of Revenge in history (Boitempo).

Originally published on the website Brazil 247.

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