Chile Politics Reporting slider — 27 July 2013

Here in Chile, the Presidential election is a short four months away.  The conservative UDI (Democratic Independent Union) and RN (National Rejuvenation) parties held a primary to see who would lead there Coalition for Change.  The UDI candidate, Pablo Longueira, won.  But he withdrew from the race after falling into a deep depression in which it is reported he lost 7 kilos.  Poor fellow.  His braves sons came before the press to explain why his father was pulling out.

The right wing was cast into a quandary.  Do they (a) hold primaries again to pick a new candidate, (b) pick a new candidate for the UDI party and have a three-way race with the centrists, or do they (c) rally behind a new candidate for their coalition, called the “Alliance.”  After only a few days of discussion, the RN candidate, who was defeated in the primary, withdrew (He said the UDI would never accept him.) and the former Minister of Labor Evelyn Matthei was promoted to the head of the UDI party and then to the top of the ticket.

Before the current regime, Chile was government by center-left governments since the military regime gave up power after a plebiscite.  Weariness with the center-left governments propelled the billionaire conservative President Sebastien Piñera into office four years ago.  Michelle Bachelet was president before Piñera and is now seeking to return to power.

Bachelet managed to keep out of the bloody business of politics for the past four years by working at the United Nations in New York.  Yet the right wing has been trying to inflict damage to her credibility by highlighting her leadership during the mega 8.8 earthquake struck of 2010.  Despite warnings from American-run Tsunami Warning system, people living along the coast were given no advance warning as a tsunami rushed ashore wreaking tremendous damage.   Someone dropped the ball, and it cost lives.

Bachelet leads the Concertación made up of Christian Democrats, the Socialist Party, and the Party for Democracy, and the Communist Party (at least for this election).  There are also a host of other political parties, each with their own candidate.

Whoever wins the election will face the same issues that Bachelet faced the first time around: mainly the how to improve the education system and contain the student protests.  In the USA, when a student behaves badly, he is expelled from school.  But here it works the other way around:  students take over the school and expel the teachers.   The students stay put for months at a time demanding that government change academic policy. Police had to forcibly evict the students from many schools here, so that voters could cast their votes in the polling places.  After the votes were cast, at many of the same school the student went right back again and took over the schools again.

The other major issue is what should be done about the bi-nominal system put in place by the exiting dictator.  It is designed to protect the minority party by ensuring that the top two candidates win each race.



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