Two weeks after the installation of the constitutional convention, which will have a maximum of one year to draft a new Constitution, Chile is once again experiencing a political milestone this Sunday: the presidential primaries of the left and the right with a view to the November elections, the that will define the succession of the conservative Sebastián Piñera from March 2022. While the center-left of the Socialists and the Christian Democrats were left out of these primaries, with their three candidates waiting for what happens this day at the polls, the The result will define the frameworks in which the most important presidential election will take place since the return to democracy in 1990. After the riots and in the midst of a multiple crisis –social, political, institutional, health and economic–, the next Administration you will have in your hands the mission of implementing the norms of the new political charter.
With the great unknown of participation, the left-wing alliance Approve Dignity – made up of the Communist Party (PC) and the Broad Front – will measure its two candidates this Sunday: communist mayor Daniel Jadue (architect and sociologist, 54 years old) and the leading deputy of Social Convergence, Gabriel Boric (law graduate, 35 years old). “They have very different ideological profiles and, in parallel, a generational dispute is at stake. It’s a race sexy, because it is not usual for both cleavages to occur simultaneously ”, characterizes Mauricio Morales, a political scientist at the University of Talca. For Mireya Dávila, professor at the Institute of Public Affairs of the University of Chile, “Jadue’s candidacy has as its main driving force a traditional and well-organized party like the Communist Party, while around Boric, a new political leader , a wide spectrum of forces expressed in the Broad Front has gathered ”, a movement similar to Podemos in Spain that was born from the protests of the university students in 2011.
Regarding its programmatic distances, Dávila adds, “there are differences in some policies to reverse the neoliberal model, as well as the gradualness or not of these policies,” alluding to Boric, who is committed to captivating moderate center-left voters. “But special differences are observed in terms of the condemnation of the violation of human rights in Venezuela and Cuba,” adds the academic from the University of Chile, regarding one of the central issues that has crossed this electoral dispute, where the rejection of both regimes has put the communist mayor in trouble. “Until today I have not heard any broken eyeball in Cuba,” said Jadue in the last debate, amid the protests on the island, although he claimed to support “the peaceful demonstration in all parts of the world.” Morales highlights other differences between Jadue and Boric: “In the case of the PC there are doubts about democratic commitment, while, in foreign policy, Boric has an open-minded position and Jadue is mostly protectionist.”
Both are candidates from a left that was not part of the transition to democracy in 1990, although the Communist Party entered the Government in the last Administration of the socialist Michelle Bachelet (2014-2018). It is a competitive dispute and not just symbolic. Because although Jadue was clearly ahead of Boric when they registered the primaries on May 18, at least according to the polls, the mistakes of the communist mayor in the final stretch of the campaign have pushed his opponent, so the scenario it is fully open. This primary, in any case, implies a commitment with a view to the presidential elections on November 21, so regardless of who is the winner, they must agree on a common program for the first round. It is a strengthened bloc: in the most important election in recent Chilean history, the constituent convention, the Approve Dignity list won 28 of the 155 seats, surpassing the center-left of the old Concertación, which reached 25.
The right chooses between four men
On the right, four men face each other (there is not a woman candidate in both blocks, despite the strength of the feminist movement). One of the traditional candidates of the sector, Joaquín Lavín (economist, 67 years old), from the UDI, who in 1999 contested the presidency vote by vote to the socialist Ricardo Lagos. For Renovación Nacional, another of the large parties of the right, a wayward, Mario Desbordes (lawyer, 52 years old) competes, while for the liberal sector community, Evópoli, postulates the economist Ignacio Briones (economist, 48 years old), minister of Hacienda de Piñera since the riots of October 2019 until last January. Another former Piñera minister, Sebastián Sichel (lawyer, 43 years old), who led the Social Development portfolio for a year, between 2019 and 2020, competes in this official race. Unlike the rest of the competitors, however, he is not active in any party and has a Christian Democratic past.
“Each candidate has emphasized the dimension that best characterizes him. In the case of Lavín, his proposals to innovate in public policies without changing the model. For Overflows, move the right towards the center with a more social perspective. Briones has relieved the technocratic factor. And Sichel has presented himself as a meritocratic personalist-populist winner, ”says Dávila, PhD in Political Science. According to Morales, in this official primary is in dispute “the hegemony within the right of the partisan candidates and the independents.” “In Chile, the right has always had a weakness for independents, who in this case are embodied in Sichel,” explains the academic from the University of Talca.
Although the polls give Lavín as a favorite, it would not be a ruled out surprise if this Sunday the independent Sichel, who has approached him in recent polls, could surpass him.
It is a sector that has been hit hard after the last elections. In the conventional elections, the right was left with 37 seats out of the 155, without reaching the third necessary to veto certain constitutional norms. In the municipal elections, 45% of the population went from governing in 2016 to only 20% in the elections last May. In the second round of governors, the first democratic election of the regional authorities, it triumphed in just one of 16. Despite this bad scenario, the Chilean right has options to keep La Moneda.
“There is a right-wing government on the ground and an exultant opposition; but at the same time, the right-wing candidate is very competitive (I dare to predict that it will be Lavín) and the left and center-left opposition is divided. This increases the chances that the right-wing candidate goes to the first round and that there the center vote in a compulsory voting scheme will give him victory, “said Carlos Peña, Chilean columnist, in an interview with EL PAÍS.
One of the main signs of strength between the two blocks will be the number of voters that manage to mobilize this Sunday. In the 2017 primaries, the right-wing drew 1.4 million votes. The Frente Amplio, meanwhile, took 327,000 voters to the polls, although four years ago it was without the CP. “Yes or yes the left is going to be the winner because, anyway, it is going to narrow the gap with the right. It may even surpass it in participation, ”says Morales, a doctor in Political Science.
The center-left, waiting
Meanwhile, the center-left awaits the definitions of this Sunday to take the next step, because it did not successfully achieve the negotiation process to present itself to the legal primary, in a democratic exercise that seems necessary in the midst of the representativeness crisis. There are two formal candidates – the socialist Paula Narváez and the radical Carlos Maldonado – but it seems a proven fact that the Christian Democratic senator Yasna Provoste will make her candidacy official in the coming days, especially because she has more support in the polls than her contenders within the bloc. . Your chances of success will be related to the outcome of the left and right this Sunday. The best scenario for this sector would be if Lavín and Jadue win, respectively, which would allow them to capture the center. If Sichel and Boric win, however, the race turns uphill for the former Concertación (1990-2010).
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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.