Sunday, January 17, 2010

The 2010 Chile Presidential Election-More Thoughts

First, my opinions in regards to some interesting questions from a commenter-and ones that others may also have.

"Why do you think the current candidate Frei isn't running with high poll numbers like Bachelet's?"

Michelle Bachelet is extremely smart and likable, a good politician. Frei is...well. pretty boring and was President before(from 1994 to 2000) Look for Bachelet to run again after this 4 year term(you can run again but not consecutively here). Frei will continue policies put forth by Bachelet. So it's the old Frei but with someone else's good ideas. And President Bachelet has been fairly quiet in her support until recently, which is her character-she has never mentioned in public(to my knowledge) the well known fact that her father was killed under Pinochet-as was Frei's father and MEO's father.

"Why is the conservative Pinera doing so well?"

People want change even when they don't know what that change might be. And I think many think a wealthy man like Pinera as President means this translates to their own future wealth. I have heard comments that a wealthy man doesn't need money and therefore won't be greedy(in that case they should look to the US and Pinera's insider trading-and maybe the bank of Talca)Pinera's best issue was crime(and Bachelet's weakest). They are trying to change the system here-rights to trial etc that is a difficult transition. Also, I think most don't understand that the president's hands are tied largely because the constitution created under Pinochet is in force still and very, very difficult to change. And you still have Pinochet supporters, I think about 20%. Hard to believe but true. Pinera has distanced himself from many right wing policies knowing that he has the support of the right no matter what he says, picking up those votes in the middle.

"Also - what do you think is the effect of a rule that all must vote? Does that produce more conservative results, or more left-liberal?"

Good question. Many still don't vote at this time in spite of so-called mandatory voting. And the young voters aren't turning out in large numbers. And they recently changed the rule. People of voting age will automatically be registered in the future but it will no longer be mandatory to vote. Also Chileans that live out of the country will be able to vote absentee in future elections. The voting issue was a change due to MEO influence. And absentee voters will include leftists that expatriated during the Pinochet years(ie Isabelle Allende-the writer) as well as right wingers (Jose Pinera-famous for privatization "reforms" he instigated under Pinochet). Note: I love Isabelle Allende's books notably "My Invented Country" and really, really think Jose and his supporters should mention that these "reforms" took place under a dictatorship and are, therefore, not democratic as likes to pretend.

Pinera has made some mistakes recently. He avoided a question in the last debate when a reporter asked him if he would ask MEO to join his government-MEO came out only days later and endorsed Frei. From the NYT: "In recent weeks, the government of Michelle Bachelet, Concertación’s popular president, agreed to fast-track some initiatives espoused by Mr. Enríquez-Ominami, in the hope of helping Mr. Frei’s chances. The initiatives include education and water reforms, and a measure to make voting registration automatic but voting voluntary, reversing the current system in which voting is mandatory for life once a voter is registered. Mr. Enríquez-Ominami had blamed that system for a sharp decline in new voter registration." In other words, the Concertacion is willing to listen, the right not so much. I think Pinera thought he had this won and became complacent.

Pinera also came out against José Miguel Insulza, Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS). Whatever Chilean politics, left or right, Chileans love Chileans and there is a lot of pride and patriotism-and that includes Insulza. And communist left wing poets(see Pablo Neruda). Or Victor Jara, the singer and songwriter.

I read of MEO's 20% of 1st round votes (that both candidates want) a poll found that 44 percent of those who voted for Mr. Enríquez-Ominami said they would vote for Mr. Frei while 20 percent would vote for Mr. Piñera; 21 percent said they would vote for neither candidate. With MEO's endorsement of Frei, there is a possibility of wresting some the 21% that say they won't vote as well as a real possibility that Pinera will lose some of that 20%.

And the voting has begun. I hear polls close at 4 pm.

Edit: Looks like Frei conceded. Pinera took 51.87 percent of the vote with 60.3 percent of polling stations counted, compared to 48.12 percent for Frei.

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