Democratically Elected Center-Right President in Chile

January 20th, 2010   Articles | Chile @en | Latin America

On December 13 last year, 8.2 million people voted in the Presidential election in Chile. None of the candidates managed to receive a majority of the votes. The Candidates who received the most votes; Sebastian Piñera (44 percent) and Eduardo Frei (29 percent), were up for a second election on January 17, 2010. Piñera won with 51.6 percent against Freis, who received 48.4 percent.

On December 13 last year, 8.2 million voted in the Presidential election in Chile. None of the candidates managed to receive a majority of the votes. The Candidates who received the most votes; Sebastian Piñera (44 percent) and Eduardo Frei (29 percent), were up for a second election on January 17, 2010. Piñera won with 51.6 percent against Freis, who received 48.4 percent.

The newly elected president will not take office until March 11, due to the current holiday season in Chile. But the preparations for the government’s upcoming work have already started. An important part of the president’s power in Chile is the ability to propose legislation, which is one of the reasons why the new administration wants to prepare as much as possible before coming into power.
The current president Michelle Bachelet (Socialist Party) belongs to the coalition of Social Democrats and Christian Democrats who have ruled the country since the democratic restoration in 1989. Eduardo Frei also represents this coalition. Bachelet is and has been very popular amongst Chileans – more popular than the party she represents. In 2006, Bachelet won the election with 53.5 percent of the votes. Many believe that she might have been re-elected if the country’s constitution had allowed the president to be elected for more than one term. It is only possible to be elected for a second term after leaving the presidency in between. Thus, it cannot be ruled out that the 58 year old Michelle Bachelet will be up for the Presidential election in 2013.

What makes the recent election remarkable is that Sebastian Piñeras will be the first democratically elected president from a center-right Party since 1952. This is a sign of change and an indication that Chile is leaving its past behind. Confidence in the democratic right, along with successful experiences of free trade and growth-friendly policies, which is what Piñera represents, made the victory possible. Only days after his victory, Piñera declared that Chile’s largest public copper manufacturer, Codelco, needs an infusion of capital and that a good way to solve this would be to at least partly privatize the ownership. However, he stressed, that such change will not take place without the support from the Chilean people and that a close dialogue will be initiated with the trade unions representing the employees of Codelco.

Sebastian Piñera was the candidate for the two center-right parties; Unión Demócrata Independiente, UDI and Renovación Nacional, RN. Both Parties are relatively young and were founded during the restoration of democracy. For the first time in an election, UDI and RN were unified in presenting one candidate, which paved the way to victory.

Piñera is a business man who, according to the business journal Forbes, has private means worth around EUR 7 billion. Among his most famous companies are the successful Chilean airline Lan Chile and the TV-channel Chilevisión. Due to his Presidency, Piñera will sell his shares in Lan Chile. Chilevisión will be converted into a foundation. Piñera is 60 years old, married and has four children and grandchildren. He was a candidate in the presidential election in 2006 but lost to Michelle Bachelet. Piñera’s brother José, is known worldwide for creating Chile’s pension system, which has become a model for many other countries. José Piñera belongs to the UDI, unlike his brother Sebastian who has a background in the RN. Both the UDI and the RN represent conservative values and pro liberal economic policies of free trade, entrepreneurship and free markets.

The main issue in the election campaign, according to Manfredo Mayol, Head of Communication at UDI, has been crime and unemployment. Piñeras victory can thus primarily be explained by the fact that he represented change. At the same time Eduardo Frei, a former president (1996-2000), was perceived as one of those “who have been in power for too long”. In the campaign, Piñera particularly stressed that he was the candidate representing the masses; both the middle-class and those less fortunate. Piñera also stressed that he wants to increase business opportunities and improve economic growth in Chile.

Summary of text written by Linda Siverbo, member of the board of the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation.

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