By Christian Ghymers & Antoine Masquelin
Chile – Sebastian Pinera and the new Latin America global context
Following the rise of conservative leaders in Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Honduras, Chile elects Sebastián Piñera as Bachelet’s successor for a four years Presidential term. Sebastian Piñera, a 68 years-old businessman who governed Chile from 2010 to 2014 — having been both preceded and succeeded by Mrs. Bachelet — won the second round of votes with 54,6% against senator Alejandro Guiller, a journalist close to the centrist “radical party”, heading a broad coalition from the extreme left to part of the centre.
This victory of the right seems due to a disappointing second presidential mandate of Michele Bachelet, who undertook social and political reforms in a difficult economic context and had to face several political scandals which damaged seriously citizen’s trust towards politicians’ class. Senator Guiller proposed to continue the reforms undertaken by president Bachelet but was heading a heterogeneous coalition of left parties. Piñera benefitted from the growing divisions inside the Chilean left. Throughout the race, many voters in Chile expressed deep dissatisfaction with the political establishment and described their choice as one between the lesser of two evils, expecting higher rate of growth.
The rate of participation was indeed low: 46.7% in the first round and 49% for the second one. In the parliamentary part of this election, Pinera’s party gets 72 of 155 representatives in the lower house, i.e. 46%, more than any other bloc. Still, without an outright majority in either chamber, Pinera’s allies will have to form alliances to pass most laws. The divided left fall to 28% for the Bachelet’s coalition plus 13% for the emerging new leftist front, while the traditional centre – the Christian democrats – which used to be the first political force in Chile for decades, is reduced to only 9% of the parliament seats.
Chile, although the most stable country of the region, does not escape from a legitimacy crisis for the Chilean political model and its economic model, the most successful one in Latin America during the last three decades which made it to become the highest GDP per capita of the region, is also questioned for the difficulties to reduce social inequalities and the poor growth performance in the last presidential period.
Latin America is still facing big socio-economic challenges when US president Trump is turning back to several decades of US support to multilateralism, free trade and democracy when new elections in the region are coming in 2018: Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay will elect presidents.