- Fernanda Paul
- BBC News Mundo, Santiago de Chile
It was one of the big questions during the presidential campaign and with the triumph of the leftist Gabriel Boric over the right-wing José Antonio Kast in Sunday’s ballot, it gains even more force: how much weight will the Communist Party (PC) have in the government that Boric will lead to as of March 11, 2022.
The return of communism -by Boric- and Pinochetism -of Kast- were constant ghosts in one of the most polarized conflicts that Chile has experienced since the return to democracy in 1990, evoking memories in part of the citizens. of what they were the Popular Unity of Salvador Allende and the coup led by Augusto Pinochet in 1973.
Those ghosts were behind the choice that many voters made.
Some of them argued this to BBC Mundo, who based their vote by stating that they did not want to “deliver Chile on a platter” to communism or, on the other hand, for “Pinochet fascism” to rule the country.
And after his resounding victory over Kast, Boris supporters took to the streets with a slogan: “Hope conquers fear.”
Although it is still pending that Boric defines exactly the role that the PC will have in its management, -a question that is asked and asked by thousands of Chileans, and even foreigners who assure that Chile will become the new Venezuela-, it should be noted that nor is it the first time that the Communist Party is part of the government.
For this reason, a key question is whether its power will be limited to that of the Michelle Bachelet administration (2014-2018) —where it was one of the parties of the ruling Nueva Mayoría coalition— or if it will increase, assuming important ministries or substantial control. of the programmatic agenda.
We will also have to see analyze
Many analysts also emphasize that the new generation of Chilean communists have more to do with a progressive agenda of social change than with the old communist models.
“One more game”
A member of the Social Convergence party, Boric, who at 35 is the youngest president-elect in the history of Chile, came to the presidential race hand in hand with the PC after beating his standard-bearer, Daniel Jadue, in a primary in July of this year.
Although the communists played a key role in the campaign of the first round of November 21 and in the construction of their government program – which, among other things, proposes profound reforms to the pension system, increasing the role of the State in the economy and expand social rights-, for the Boric ballot tried to distance himself from the influence that the PC will have in order to seduce the voters of the center who did not see this union favorably.
Since then, the now elected president has emphasized on more than one occasion that the communists will be “one more force” within his government.
“The PC is one more of our alliance, as is the Democratic Revolution (RD), Social Convergence (CS), Commons and the Social Green Regionalist Party (FRVS)”, he pointed out.
However, his adversaries – who have stoked the fear of many Chileans of the return of communism – insist that the power of the communists will be substantial.
Throughout the presidential campaign, in fact, José Antonio Kast used to repeat that his challenge was not to beat Boric but to beat the PC because, he said, “it is the support” of his campaign.
Analysts pose various scenarios.
Octavio Avendaño, a doctor in political science and academic from the University of Chile, believes that the influence will be moderate.
“During the Bachelet government, the PC was a fairly loyal party. It did not question or criticize its management. It had ministries, such as Social Development or Women, and it is most likely that in this new context it will occur. something similar, “he tells BBC Mundo.
And he adds that after the adjustments that Boric had to make for the second round, when he summoned more moderate sectors with the aim of winning the adherence of the political center, “it is most likely that those sectors will assume a more leading role in the most important ministries, such as Finance or Economy “.
The dean of the Faculty of Government of the Universidad del Desarrollo, Eugenio Guzmán, has another vision.
“In the second government of President Bachelet, the PC was a rather marginal actor given the electoral and political weight it had within that coalition. Now, the PC is a central part of the origin of Boric’s coalition and therefore goes to be a key agent in ministerial definitions “, he tells BBC Mundo.
Regarding the positions that some communist militants could hold, Boric has ruled out on several occasions that Daniel Jadue, mayor of the Recoleta municipality and his rival in the presidential primaries, will be part of his administration, indicating that he needs “transversal people.”
Jadue is a controversial figure, who has great support in his mayoralty, but generates resistance from part of the center-left, with whom he has had various disagreements.
For political scientist Javier Sajuria, an academic at the Queen Mary University of London, Boric is more likely to add young communist leaders, such as female deputies, to his cabinet. Camila Vallejo or Karol Cariola, and not to the historical leaders.
“In that there is going to be an important generational change issue,” he says.
According to the political scientist Mireya Dávila, the profile of Vallejo or Cariola does not obey a traditional communist model, but rather a proposal for changes that makes sense to Boric.
“Today’s communist in Chile has more to do with a progressive agenda for social change rather than historical adherence to certain communist models,” he explained to BBC Mundo.
Some experts even affirm that today the Chilean CP has “two souls.”
This was in evidence last November, when historical leaders of the party validated the triumph of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua through an official statement, which caused various young faces of the community to quickly come out of the mark.
“We condemn the human rights violations in Nicaragua, Chile and anywhere in the world,” Vallejo said through his Twitter account.
The deputy’s statement coincided with the position of Boric, who had described the Nicaraguan elections as “fraudulent” and had called on the PC to retract.
The influence of communist ideology on Boric’s program is another topic that arouses interest among analysts and the public.
The original proposals of the former student leader were widely shared by this party.
However, heading into the second round (and in view of the new composition of Parliament, where the right won half of the Senate), he was forced to make some adjustments to summon other sectors.
This had enormous resistance from the PC. “The program has to be fulfilled and not to the extent possible,” said the party’s president, Guillermo Teillier.
However, Boric clarified that he had a “duty” to summon those who had not voted for him in the first round and incorporate new ideas to promote “national unity.”
Thus, it added to its economic team experts from more moderate profiles, like Eduardo Engel or Andrea Repetto, who had previously collaborated with governments of the center-left.
“Boric made a conscious decision to open the field to the center. Knowing the people who support him, I think they were not so comfortable with the PC in programmatic terms and they are more comfortable with the interference of these experts,” says Sajuria to BBC Mundo .
Along with this, Boric’s command presented some changes to key reforms, such as the tax reform.
Taking proposals from the former candidate of the Christian Democracy, Yasna Provoste (who lost in the first presidential round), Boric now seeks to collect 5% of GDP during his presidential term (and not 8% in 8 years, as his original proposal said, and which was criticized by some economists, businessmen and figures of the center-left, such as the former finance ministers, Andrés Velasco and Nicolás Eyzaguirre, for being extremely ambitious, irresponsible and even fanciful).
The foregoing provoked a tense negotiation with the PC, which nevertheless ended up complying.
“The PC is being very pragmatic in this round and is joining in a rather reasonable way in terms of accepting what the leader of the coalition raises, which in this case is Boric,” asserts Mireya Dávila.
Fundamental pillar in Parliament
The analysts consulted by BBC Mundo agree that in any case the influence of the CP will be more in Parliament than in the government.
This, because for the first time in 48 years the communists made it to the Senate with two representatives: Daniel Núñez and Claudia Pascual.
In addition, they will have 12 representatives in the Chamber of Deputies.
“The PC is going to assume a key and very active role from Congress. Because it will have more parliamentarians than any other party of the Broad Front. And this gives it special power,” says Octavio Avendaño.
For her part, Mireya Dávila affirms that “due to the organizational capacity of the PC, of party discipline, it can be a bench that contributes a lot to the president’s legislative decisions.”
But it can also be a stepping stone to carry forward the ambitious reforms, since Boric will probably have to make certain concessions to pass them.
And that is precisely where the great challenge of the next president of Chile will be: in create broad agreements.
A task that will not be easy at all because, to make some happy, you will have to bear costs on other fronts.
That is why many say that Boric will have to walk towards his reforms like a tightrope walker.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.