The Chilean political scene is in turmoil and not only because of the different electoral bodies that will take place this year. The constitutional process, which began with the social epidemic of October 2019, was followed by the pandemic. The two events revealed, in different ways, the problems of the political system: parties disconnected from society, a political class which does not know or is not linked to the country it governs, inequalities, poverty and constant feeling of injustice.
Chile, in this context of decline, will begin, on May 15 and 16, an electoral cycle unprecedented in the recent history of the country. The May election will elect Constituent Convention members, mayors, councilors and regional governors, positions that will be democratically elected for the first time. Presidential primaries and primaries for Congress candidates (deputies and senators) are scheduled for July. In November, the election of deputies, senators and the president will take place and, in the case of a presidential runoff, it will take place on December 19. As we can see, it is an overloaded year of elections.
The original schedule had to be changed several times due to the pandemic. The changes were undoubtedly necessary, but were not discussed in advance. As a result, political actors had to improvise on the spot, rethink campaign strategies, make adjustments and keep presidential definitions open. Indeed, many are waiting for the results of the May elections to define, according to the real weight of each party, the pacts and electoral strategies.
Citizen unrest, the lack of legitimacy of actors in the political system and the pandemic confirm a complex scenario for both the ruling party and the opposition. In the case of the ruling party, he bears the burden of supporting a government with a president who has a 9% approval rating, no political strategy, and careless handling of the health disaster. Despite having conducted a successful vaccination process, the government is engaged in meaningless discussions with Congress, abandoning the needs of citizens.
One example is the dispute over the third withdrawal of pension funds approved by Congress with votes from the opposition and much of the ruling party. The government, turning its back on popular sentiment and the opinion of its members of Congress, proposed an alternative measure and brought the Congress proposal to the Constitutional Court. The request was not processed and was rejected, forcing the president to withdraw his bill and enact that of the legislature. Such conflicts have reduced its popularity and alienated right-wing government parties, including their presidential candidates.
Bad government administration weakened party discipline within the ruling party’s ranks, causing it to suffer defeats in Congress. For this sector, the May 2021 election could be the liferaft that keeps them afloat. If, despite Piñera, he manages to get more than 30% of conventional mayors and keep strategic mayors in power, he has a chance of winning in the next election. The possibility of obtaining more than 30% of conventional agreements and thus forcing the generation of agreements in the Constituent Convention is a possibility, given the division of the opposition which has a large number of lists.
The various sectors of the opposition failed to capitalize on the unrest and did not take the opportunity to make visible the problems of the right in government. The left has a discourse of unity. All its leaders, leaders and candidates speak of unity, however, each new action aggravates their disunity. There is no consensus on the country’s development strategy, there is no shared diagnosis on how the country reached this stage, and there is no common strategy to deal with the future.
This division could allow the law not only to remain in power at the end of the year, but also to impose its terms in the constitutional convention. For the opposition and for the different parties and blocs, the May election is an opportunity to separate leaders, adjust expectations and build an alternative to govern the country after the pandemic. These results will make it possible to define, for example, how many opposition lists will go to the legislative elections and how many presidential candidates will be on the left. The composite analysis of the results of the convention and the vote of the councilors will be decisive for the definition of the strategies and the negotiation of the quotas for the elections of December.
From the opposition, a populist alternative has also emerged. The fastest growing candidate in the polls is Pamela Jiles, an MP who defines herself as beyond right and left, who has managed to capitalize on unease with the political class through the withdrawal of funds people’s pension. She refers to her political colleagues as the “miserable political class”, to her constituency as “the army of grandchildren”, to herself as her grandmother and to her partner, candidate for governor of the metropolitan region. , like his grandfather. She presents herself as “a savior” for “her people” that the political class has abandoned, obviously including all the politicians in her sector.
For Jiles, the May election will be an indicator of his popularity. She has bet everything on the campaign of her husband, who is running as governor of the metropolitan area. A vote acceptable to your partner will allow you to participate in the presidential elections in November without going through the primaries.
Citizen unrest, institutional discredit, ineffectiveness of government, lack of political agreements can set off a time bomb which, if it were to explode, would leave populism in power. To this, we can add the three withdrawals from pension funds which, in addition to being inefficient, will end up mortgaging the future of citizens. In summary, given the context in which the country lives, the result of the May elections will be a map to define the future of the country and it is up to the political actors to assume a strategy to avoid entering the possible circle of country. the death of democracy in Chile.
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