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Elections in Chile: Bachelet’s Left-wing Well Ahead of the Pack

Translated Monday 25 November 2013, by Pilar Albisu

The socialist ex-president, Michelle Bachelet, came in well ahead of the pack in the first round of the Chilean presidential elections on Sunday, with a program focusing on the improvement of public services and women’s rights. Her “New Majority” coalition brings together young people, including the leaders of the 2011 student movement, such as Camila Vallejo.

Michelle Bachelet, who received 46.73% of the votes against 25% for the right-wing candidate, Evelyn Matthei, has come close to winning the election ever since the first round. A second round will take place on December 15. This remains a small victory for the conservatives who only received 14-21% of the votes, according to poles. The right-wing party says it is a “moral triumph”, but this sounds more like a way of avoiding humiliation. “This gives them space and will allow them to lose with dignity” given that the election of Michelle Bachelet will be “almost a formality” come December, says university professor, Cristobal Bellolio.

A Leftist Reform Program

With her «New Majority » coalition, Bachelet has brought together communists (who have not participated in the government for 40 years), Christian-Democrats and various Socialists. She has promised to implement, in the 100 days following her election, an ambitious programme of measures, including a large tax reform which will see an 8 billion dollar increase in corporate taxes (3% of the GDP), as well as the rebuilding of the education system to establish quality public education, and the improvement of the health-care system and public services. She plans to legalize abortion, banned in Chile even for therapeutic purposes, and to open the debate on same-sex marriage. Michelle Bachelet also intends to modify the Constitution so as to allow the decentralization of the State’s administrative system, the changing of the binominal system and the reaffirmation of control over the country’s national resources, often stolen by multinational companies. To read more on the subject, here is a link to our interview with the president of the Chilean Communist party, also a member of the “New Majority” coalition (In French): "Le peuple veut aujourd’hui une nouvelle Constitution pour le Chili".

Young Elected Members

On Sunday, Camila Vallejo and other leaders of the 2011 Chilean student movement were elected to Congress. It is truly a change of generation within the country’s political circle. Michelle Bachelet will have to rely on these young people to overhaul the education system and make noticeable progress in terms of women’s rights. The 25 year-old Vallejo, activist for the Communist party, became the embodiment of the student movement which demanded free education, and ultimately threatened the power of right-winged outgoing president, Sebastian Pinera. “We are going to celebrate our victory on the streets of La Florida (a neighborhood in Santiago),” announced the new parliamentarian on Twitter. Other leaders of the student movement will also enter into the lower house of Congress, including independent candidates, Giorgio Jackson and Gabriel Boric, and Karol Cariola, also an activist of the Communist party and a member of the “New Majority” coalition.

Allende and Pinochet Still in the Background

The two opponents of the election lived, as children, in the same neighborhood, and played together on the Air Force Base of Cerro Moreno, in Antofagasta, northern Chili. Their families were neighbours and their fathers were close friends. But Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’etat against the socialist president, Salvador Allende, on September 11, 1973, tore them decisively apart. Alberto Bachelet was tortured to death for his loyalty to the deposed president. For his part, Fernando Matthei was a member of the military junta until becoming supervisor of the facility where Michelle Bachelet’s father was detained.

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