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Chilean right in flux after electoral defeat

Outgoing Chilean President may profit from the reorgnization of the centre-right.
Opportunity for Piñera to establish new political alternative

SANTIAGO — The Chilean right is reeling after a series of blows that began with the defeat in the presidential elections in December and which has been deepened by the resignation of a group of activists from the Renovación Nacional (National Renewal, RN) of outgoing president Sebastián Piñera.

Three young RN figures, Pedro Browne, Joaquín Godoy y Karla Rubilar, announced earlier this month that they would be leaving the party and have announed the creation of a new political collective known as Amplitud. This new movement seeks to present a modern center-right political alternative that rejects the legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship and seeks individual liberties and economic liberalism along with a functional state.

Lily Pérez, the spokesperson for the failed centre-right bid to retain the presidency with Evelyn Matthei and an historic member of RN, also resigned on Thursday.

Just under two months to go until the end of the first democratically elected center-right government in Chile since 1958, cracks are beginning to appear in the coalition that lead Piñera to power but failed to retain it when challenged by former president Michelle Bachelet.

The critiques seem to stem from the fact that Piñera did not do enough to ensure that the ruling coalition won enough votes to win the presidency. Piñera has also been accused of having a highly-personalized style of administration that did not lend itself to the Matthei campaign. Evelyn Matthei obtained 38 percent of the vote in a runoff against Michelle Bachelet and was plagued by accusations of being too close to the Pinochet dictatorship. Piñera also made it a point to distance himself politcally from Matthei.

The results in the parliament were not much better as the ruling coalition lost 500,00 votes and nine seats.

INTERNAL CRACKS

The crisis in the Chilean right is hitting RN just as hard as its partner the Unión Demócrata Independiente (Independent Democratic Union, UDI), but the more homogenous nature of the UDI means that it is handling the conflict internally and away from public scrutiny. This did not prevent the UDI party president Patricio Melero of accusing Piñera and his government of being “complicit” in the electoral defeats of late 2013.

Analysts however, have advised that these developments are favourable to Sebastián Piñera, who is keen on running for the presidency in 2017.

RN party officials have criticized the moves as they are also critical of Piñera’s current interest in regaining the presidency.

At least four members of the Piñera Cabinet are expected to resign from RN once the mandate is over and there are rumours that Piñera himself wil abandon the party.

The signals indicate that those leaving the RN are party dissidents that are nonethteless close to Piñera and are seeking to build a centre-right alternative for the next presidential election and in the meantime be the political opposition during Michelle Bachelet’s rule.

Analysts have also argued that the RN’s crisis is also caused by the its lack of a cohesive party structure and the fact that it is has an outdated ideology based on conservative ideas that have not kept up with changes in Chile.

OPPORTUNITY FOR CHANGE

The next few years in Chile will be marked by a process of likely political reform, as Bachelet has promised constitutional changes that could includes changes to Chile’s electoral rules bringing back a multi-party politial system.

Dictator Augusto Pinochet established a binomial structure that divided politics into two large competing groups, neither of which could comprehensively assert themselves electorally and which also drowned out independent and minority political positions.

If Piñera and his allies are able to establish a new centre-right political party it is possible that they would favour such a reform.

— Herald with AP

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