- Title: Chile's right wins big in local elections as political tides shift
- Date: 24th October 2016
- Summary: SANTIAGO, CHILE (OCTOBER 24, 2016) (REUTERS) CHILEAN FLAG OUTSIDE GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS VARIOUS OF THE EXTERIOR OF PRESIDENTIAL PALACE POLITICAL ANALYST, GUILLERMO HOLZMANN, WALKING DOWN DOWNTOWN SANTIAGO STREET (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) POLITICAL ANALYST, GUILLERMO HOLZMANN, SAYING: "The (rightist) Chile Vamos (coalition) has clearly moved towards (former President) (Sebastian) Pinera and that's where we get what we could call Pinera-ism more than the Chile Vamos coalition. I think that's the first conclusion. The second, the leadership of (former President) Ricardo Lagos Escobar appears weakened, but he is still a leader. And the expectations for (Alejandro) Guillier (possible independent candidate for the presidency) is still there, but it's just a possibility, it's not a certainty politically or electorally."
- Embargoed: 8th November 2016 18:08
- Keywords: Chile right center-left coalition former leader Sebastian Pinera conservative coalition presidential election
- Location: SANTIAGO, CHILE
- City: SANTIAGO, CHILE
- Country: Chile
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00155D7A6B
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Chile's right snatched dozens of mayoralties on Sunday (October 23) from the governing centre-left coalition, in a boost to former leader Sebastian Pinera, the front-runner to lead the conservative coalition in next year's presidential election.
With over 99 percent of results counted on Sunday night in local elections, the right-leaning Chile Vamos pact emerged as the big winner.
It won slightly more votes than President Michelle Bachelet's left-leaning Nueva Mayoria coalition, despite the left going into the vote with a massive incumbent advantage.
"The (rightist) Chile Vamos (coalition) has clearly moved towards (former President) (Sebastian) Pinera and that's where we get what we could call Pinera-ism more than the Chile Vamos coalition. I think that's the first conclusion. The second, the leadership of (former President) Ricardo Lagos Escobar appears weakened, but he is still a leader. And the expectations for (Alejandro) Guillier (possible independent candidate for the presidency) is still there, but it's just a possibility, it's not a certainty politically or electorally," Chilean political analyst Guillermo Holzmann told Reuters on Monday (October 24).
Conservative candidates won the majority of key swing cities, including central Santiago, a municipality inside the capital that is considered an electoral bellwether.
Voters have turned sour on Bachelet's government after a series of corruption scandals, an ambitious reform drive that fell flat with many Chileans, and weak economic growth.
"Chileans have sent us two messages today. The Nueva Mayoria, the government's coalition, has seen a loss its level of support in several places. We should listen to this because it has a foundation. We've had weaknesses in some communes and as a coalition we've sometimes shown more division than unity when it comes to the issues that really matter to people," Bachelet said on Sunday night.
Former President Ricardo Lagos Escobar, who campaigned for Nueva Mayoria, said there was no question the right's surge was a reflection of Bachelet's government.
"The government authorities are the ones who will have to do their own evaluation, but without a doubt, we are seeing a government that has a low approval rate and this, undoubtedly, can be seen, right? I have no doubt that when you have a government with a high approval rate, it's different," he said.
The results should benefit Pinera, a conservative politician and businessman who served as president from 2010 to 2014 between Bachelet's two terms and is widely expected to seek a return to office.
"I think we have all heard the voice of Chilean men and women loud and clear. Chile wants… needs change. And today we have taken a big step towards the change Chile needs," Pinera said.
The results were a further sign the political tide had shifted toward the right in Latin America, after electoral disappointments for left-wing candidates elsewhere in the region over the past year including in neighbouring Argentina and Peru.
"On a world and a regional scale, there is a tendency towards higher abstention; a tendency which leads to this abstention meaning people aren't satisfied with their governments, especially in terms of opportunities to meet people's demands. Additionally, there is a tendency towards the right. In the case of Europe, it is nationalism in the face of the refugee crisis. In Latin America, it is the need to have someone you can trust, who will get economic growth for a better quality of life. Not just in ideological terms, but instead in much more pragmatic terms. In this perspective, these municipal elections show this a little… 'Who can we trust?' Even if we can see that everyone is concerned, 'but who can give me something concrete?' Probably the right because they manage the economy better and can they can better answer what citizens want," Holzmann said.
Independent parties - previously a non-player in Chilean politics - also outperformed, raising the possibility that Chile's 26-year-old two-coalition system could rupture. An unaffiliated candidate won a shock upset in the mayor's race in Valparaiso, one of Chile's largest cities.
With disaffection with the entire political class running high, Sunday's vote was also marked by relatively high abstention rates.
Bachelet, who is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election in 2017, lamented the low turnout in broadcast comments on Sunday night and acknowledged her coalition's defeat.
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