From email@example.com Tue Jan 11 07:14:17 2000
Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2000 22:11:47 -0600 (CST)
From: MichaelP <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: CHILE- Presidential Elections - Hard RIGHT Comes back in Force.
The hard right come back in force
Le Monde Libertaire
5 January 2000
In order to understand why the ideology of Pinochet has polluted politics
in Chile since the return to democracy ten years ago we have to go on a
trip down the side streets of the past.
In 1980, at the height of his power, Pinochet replaced the 1925
Constitution with his own. There was no public debate and no opportunity
for ammendments or modifications. This Constitution included a series of
Articles which were to become no more than shakles around the feet of
democracy. They were known as the called the anchor laws.
Firstly, the new Constitution affirmed that Pinochet would remain
President until 1988. In that year there would be a referendum so that the
people could decide if they wanted the military regime to continue. A
'yes' response would ensure that there would be no elections until 1997. A
'no' would bring about elections in 1989. It is clear that at the time
Pinochet seriously believed that he had the support of the majority of the
Chilean people and that his opponents were no more than a bunch of
subversives the secret police could happily annihilate.
Second anchor-law: so as not to run the risk of a future democratic
Parliament reforming the Constitution it was deemed necessary to keep
control of the Senate where the fate of any proposed legislation was to be
decided. To this effect Pinochet set up ten `institutional Senators'
appointed every eight years by the President of the Republic that is to
say, in 1980, himself, the armed forces, the university rectors (appointed
by him), the President of the Revenue Court (appointed by him) and by the
judges of the Supreme Court (appointed by, you've guessed, him). In
addition he appointed `life Senators' which is to say anyone who had been
President of Chile for at least six years - he was the only person to fit
Thus the Senate was made up of 28 elected members (eleven of whom were
from the right of the political spectrum), ten who were appointed and one
life member. Any important reform required a 2/3 majority. In this way
control of the Senate was assured.
Another law saw that 10% of the total revenue from Chilean copper (one of
the main sources of US dollars) was to be handed over to the military
which was at liberty to spend tham as it wished with no state control.
But in 1988 there was a surprise. The regime had miscalculated the depth
of discontent among the Chilean people. He lost the referendum. Then he
lost the elections in 1989. When the Concertacion coalition won the
elections it had the power to call a new Constituent Assembly. It is clear
that the right, shocked by their defeat, would have been unable to react.
At the time a military coup was out of the question. A million were on the
streets of Santiago, the eyes of the world were on Chile and even the
President of the US made it known to Pinochet that there should be no
question of any hasty action. But the politicians, ever perturbed by
popular demonstrations, were frightened of losing control of the situation
and prefered to negotiate a secret agreement with the military regime the
outcome of which was that the Concertacion would agree to respect the
Constitution of 1980. Chile would go into a stage of transition towards
parliamentary democracy overseen by the military. This transition period
THE FIRST ROUND
Thus, 12th December last, Chileans voted in the first round of the
election of their third President since the end of the dictatorship. Six
candidates representing four small parties and two coalitions fought over
the vote of 8 million electors.
The two large coalitions are the right wing Alliance for Chile and, in the
centre, the Concertacion of Parties for Democracy who have been in power
since the end of the dictatorship in 1990.
Lagos, the Concertacion candidate, won the first round by the narrowest of
margins with 47.96% ahead of Lavin with 47.52%. Clearly a right wing
President is on the cards for the year 2000.
How is this possible scarcely ten years after the end of the military
regime? The first thing to note if that those registered electors voted
massively for the two big coalitions sweeping the other candidates from
the competition. Secondly, the right has gone well beyond its normal 35%
of the vote and the Concertacion has missed its expected share by some
12%. Such results in the first round point towards a victory for the
THE HARD RIGHT IN A STRONG POSITION
Pinochet's involuntary absence in London has allowed Lavin to put himself
forward as a young managerial type without any political baggage. He has
carefully avoided any rhetoric which could associate him with the old
regime and has distanced himself from personalities associated with it. He
has also succeeded in attracting support from the Christian Democrats
whose extremists have always refused to `vote for a socialist' even if
that meant going against agreed party policy. It is equally clear that a
number who have been disenchanted with the ruling party have allied
themselves with this grouping.
Another source of support comes from the Mapuche Indians. The region of
Arauco voted solidly for the right. One explanation of this is that the
Mapuche Indians, who were never involved in the anti-Pinochet political
parties, didn't suffer the fierce repression that those parties did
suffer. For this group the two coalitions are simply two options. Also the
ruling party, having violently dealt with the demands of the Indians over
the last few months, could hardly expect much support from this quarter.
Not having much faith in the smaller parties the Mapuche voted for Lavin
in large numbers (56% in this region as against 40% for Lagos and 1.2% for
the Communists who had actually supported them).
Another surprise source of support is women. 53% of women voted for Lavin.
He has always appeared in public with his wife and seven children giving
the image of the ideal young Chilean family - good for the cameras and his
opinion poll ratings. Analysts suggest that women, more sensitive than men
to social problems related to delinquency and unemployment, have accepted
Lavin's promises of safer streets and more jobs.
Finally spoilt ballots only amount to some 3% suggesting that the `don't
knows' have decided to back the right.
TEN YEARS OF LIBERALISM - A BIG BILL TO PAY
The Concertacion was formed in 1989 by the union of all the
anti-dictatorship groups and brought together 17 political parties from
the Christian Democrats to the Communists picking up various Socialist
groupings in the middle. Bit by bit the `big' parties swallowed up the
`little' ones and others (Communists, Greens, Humanists) went their own
way unhappy at having to live with right wing groupings. The candidature
for the elections was easily won by Ricardo Lagos (70%) when, in the
primaries, he ran against the Christian Democrat, Andres Zaldivar. But he
drew the wrath of the right of the Christian Democrats who refused to
`vote for a Socialist'. The latter have massively supported the right -
their natural home. The flight of votes to Lavin may well herald the death
of the Concertacion.
In general the policies of the ruling coalition over ten years of
government have landed the country with a heavy bill to pay given its
unquestioning acceptance of uncontrolled neoliberalism.
Despite a handful of positive social reforms and an undeniable reduction
of mass poverty it was the ruling coalition which sold off the water and
electricity industries, put down the Mapuche who were struggling against
the multinationals and deforestration, provoked strikes in various
sectors, proved itself incapable of democratising the country's political
institutions and led calls to bring Pinochet back to Chile. To this should
be added the rise of unemployment these last 18 months since the Asian
crisis, a policy of co-operation with the right not to mention a proposed
reform of labour legislation which was finally thrown out by the Senate
partly because it didn't have the full support of the Christian Democrats.
High abstention during previous elections has suggested a growing
disillusionment among the electorate although such voters were still not
prepared to vote for the right. The ruling coalition in its somewhat
arrogant isolation didn't see what was coming. Power blinds those who hold
NOT A VERY BRIGHT FUTURE
The tight vote in the first round is a good sign for the right. For those
who oppose Pinochet these elections are a disaster. Listening to members
of the government calling on electors to vote with a sense of
responsibility is hard to swallow when the problem is of their own making.
All that is needed is a few more votes for the most extreme right wing
grouping in Latin America, fundamentally inspired by Pinochet, to take
power in Chile and with the support of a majority of its people.
Right now all eyes are fixed on the second round due to take place on
January 16th. It would really be too much to see Pinochet extradited to
Madrid to stand trial whilst his successors win the Chilean elections.
This is not political fiction but, unfortunately, a real possibility.