Chile Elections 2021: Democracies in adjustment | Opinion

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A woman celebrates the triumph of the far-right candidate, José Antonio Kast, in the first in Chile, this Sunday.
A woman celebrates the triumph of the far-right candidate, José Antonio Kast, in the first in Chile, this Sunday.PABLO SANHUEZA (Reuters)

The elections held this Sunday confirm that Chileans are carrying out an accelerated reconfiguration of their political system, as it has been known in the last 30 years. Last night, two candidates located at the extremes of the ideological dial were headed towards the second round of December 19: the ultra-conservative José Antonio Kast with 27.91% of the votes, and Gabriel Boric, leader of the left that is synthesized in the Broad Front , with 25.83%.

These elections in Chile have a family resemblance to those held in Argentina on Sunday seven days earlier. While the forces dominating the center did not collapse as on the other side of the Andes, they suffered a huge contraction. The Argentines also made their vote advance to more radical options to the left and right of the board.

These two experiences extend the design change that is taking place throughout the region. In Peru, Pedro Castillo governs, who came to power in a ballot after having obtained 19% of the votes in the first round. He competed against 17 other candidates. Colombians look with amazement at the progress of the left for the elections on May 29, with the integration of the Historical Pact whose dominant figure is Gustavo Petro. The liberal Guillermo Lasso is in charge of Ecuador with only 20% of his own votes: he won a second round that he had entered second. Brazil is witnessing the endless decline in popularity of Jair Bolsonaro, which produces an imbalance in the electoral offer because the center cannot recreate itself.

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It would be a mistake to attribute these changes to the pandemic. The plague and its dire economic consequences have been the latest spur of a longer decline, which began sometime in 2013, when the great bonanza driven by China began to decline. To gauge this deterioration, it is enough to look at some numbers. For example, the behavior of GDP per capita in the period 2013-2020. Argentina, -2.4%; Bolivia, 1.5%; Brazil, -1.1%; Chile, 0.05%; Colombia, 0.06%; Ecuador, 1.1%; Mexico, -0.4%; Paraguay, 2% and Uruguay, 0.4%.

The health crisis operated on this degradation of the material standard of living. Today the polls are unanimous. The public is more distraught over the economy than the disease. Little by little, he came out of confinement. And that same normalization showed that money is no longer enough.

It is not necessary to clarify that in Chile the malaise is prior to the epidemic. The country was rocked with an impressive social outbreak in October 2019. Dissatisfaction with the conventional political offer had its first technical manifestation in the primaries last July, when the favorites lost to the challengers. Boric prevailed on the left over Daniel Jadue, of the Communist Party, a force that had integrated the alliance with which Michelle Bachelet governed. On the right, Sebastián Sichel beat Joaquín Lavin. Yesterday Boric was second, a few points behind another conservative expression: Kast’s. Sichel was fourth, with 12.79% of the votes. And the candidate of the traditional Christian Democracy, Yasna Provoste, ranked next with 11.61%. In third place, yesterday, 12.80%, was also an unconventional candidate: Franco Parisi, a libertarian who carried out his campaign from the United States, without setting foot in the country.

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This electoral dispute takes place in parallel with a process that confirms the great mutation of Chilean politics: a constituent assembly that intends to remodel the entire institutional building, especially the economic one. Those who are concerned about this structural advance of the left celebrated yesterday the relative advance of the center-right in the Senate, with 27.85% of the votes. They bet that this chamber is the barrier to a process of change from which a very different Chile would emerge from the one known throughout the last half century.

In Argentina the shock was not so intense. But on Sunday the 14th there was the second largest abstention in the history of the democracy re-founded in 1983. The peak had been two months earlier, during the primaries: 65% turnout in a country where voting is compulsory. The majority coalitions continued to occupy the center of the map. But the Peronist ruling party, the Frente de Todos, lost 5,200,000 votes since the presidential elections two years ago. It is 40% of the votes. The opposition of Together for Change, which had governed the country between 2015 and 2019 with Mauricio Macri in the Presidency, triumphed in these legislative sessions. It was imposed in many districts, especially in the most populated ones. Among them, in the crucial province of Buenos Aires, the headquarters of Kirchnerism. But compared to 2019 he lost 1,700,000 votes: 10% of those he had won.

Other forces appeared and advanced. Towards the right, a new party, Avanza Libertad, which expresses conservative positions in the social and fiscalist in the economic. Its main candidates, Javier Milei in the Federal Capital and José Luis Espert in Buenos Aires, modulate a language that in Spain is typical of the Podemos left: they protest against the political leadership characterized as “caste”.

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At the other end of the arch the combative left, identified with Trotskyism, was deployed: it was the third national force with almost 6% of the votes. It went from 570,000 votes in 2019 to 1,270,000 votes two Sundays ago.

The institutional space of politics is fragmented. The currents of opinion are radicalized. As if the express goal of Trump’s brain Steve Bannon is being reached, the center sinks. Everything seems to be changing in Latin America. Except for the Venezuelan tyranny, which seems chronic. This Sunday regional elections were held with a scandalous abstention: 42%. Of 24 governorates, Chavismo was left with 20. This unicato of power is the other side of the case for crimes against humanity that the regime must face in the court of The Hague.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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