Buenos Aires Times

latin america LEFT-WING SURGE IN LAST SUNDAY’S VOTE

Chile gets to grips with a new post-election political landscape

Shock performance by Frente Amplio, led by Beatriz Sánchez, shakes up nation’s politics, with left-wing coalition now set to become kingmaker in two-horse race between former president Sebastián Piñera and Senator Alejandro Guillier.

Saturday 25 November, 2017
Frente Amplio’s Beatriz Sánchez waves to supporters in Santiago last Sunday evening. Her strong performance in last week’s presidential election has reshaped Chile’s political landscape.
Frente Amplio’s Beatriz Sánchez waves to supporters in Santiago last Sunday evening. Her strong performance in last week’s presidential election has reshaped Chile’s political landscape. Foto:AFP.

Chile threw itself into the next stage of its presidential race this week, with the nation’s population finding themselves confronted by a new political landscape after last weekend’s surprise election results. A strong showing by the left complicated billionaire former president Sebastián Piñera’s plans to win the race, with the Chile Vamos leader now facing a fight on his hands for the La Moneda presidential palace.

Piñera emerged from the first round with a win as expected, but he failed to win the vote outright in the first round, scoring a much lower than anticipated 36.64 percent. Meanwhile, the candidate for President Michelle Bachelet’s coalition, former journalist and Senator Alejandro Guillier finished second with 22.7 percent.

While that duo will now face a runoff vote on December 17, the surprise story was the left-wing Front Amplio’s presidential candidate Beatriz Sánchez, who bagged an unexpected 20.27 percent. Sánchez will now play a key role in the second round even though Guillier pipped her to the runoff spot by just 160,000 votes, with her votes up for grabs.

On Wednesday, the Frente Amplio said it was analysing “without anxiety” whether to formally give its support to Guillier for the run-off, saying it was in a moment of “reflection.” Speaking after a meeting of the Front Amplio’s newly elected lawmakers, Sánchez reiterated that “today there is no anxiety in our discussions.” She said a decision on supporting Guillier would be made by November 29. Sánchez, also a journalist, said the party was not “looking for a position in the [new] government” as a result of its decision.

Whatever the outcome, the coalition – which groups together 14 political parties and was only formally created in June – looks set to play a large part in the nation’s political future. Its representation jumped, rising from three to 20 lawmakers inthe Chamber of Deputies and securing its first senatorial seat.

Guillier, meanwhile, has already received the backing of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), whose candidate for president Carolina Goic took 5.88 percent in last Sunday’s vote, and the progressive PRO candidate Marco Enríquez-Ominami, who secured 5.71 percent. Piñera has already won the backing of José Antonio Kast, the rightwing candidate who represents socalled ‘Pinochet’ voters, supporters of former dictator general Augusto Pinochet. In a post-election press conference on Monday, he admitted to an “excess of triumphalism” ahead of last Sunday’s vote but said he was seeking to convince the “moderate centre” to back him.


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