What is happening in Chile is not exceptional, not at all.
It is a global phenomenon. You are not alone.
On May 15 and 16, simultaneous mega-elections were held in Chile. Above all, to pick 155 members (77 women and 78 men) of the Constituent Convention (CC) that shall draft a new constitution in conditions of parity. Likewise, votes were cast for regional governors, mayors and councilors. In each of the country's electoral districts, four ballots were given out to choose from a total of 16,731 candidates. The electoral participation reached 6,458,082 people, equivalent to 43.35% of the total number of registered voters, a figure nearly one million votes lower than the one registered in the October 2020 plebiscite, where 50.95% of the entitled population voted.
In practice, these were two elections: one to elect those who will have to write the new constitution, and the second for the political and administrative authorities, being the latter seen as an approximation to the parliamentary and presidential elections to be held on November 21. Undoubtedly, the attention was focused on the results of the first one, the CC, where the right-wing forces grouped in a single list expected to reach one-third of the 155 seats, that is, 52 representatives. However, they obtained only 37, far from the third. The most important condition demanded by the right-wing to carry out the plebiscite had been that all topics in the CC should be approved with a two-thirds majority, in the conviction that they would easily obtain that number of votes in the elections. They carried out a millionaire propaganda campaign and deployed their best men and women. To no avail.
The results were a profound blow to the government and its coalition of parties. On the other hand, the opposition was unable to reach an agreement and raise a single list of candidates. They presented themselves with around 10 lists where the forces that have governed Chile for 24 years were grouped, that is, the center-left formed by Christian Democrats and Social Democracy, plus other minor parties of a progressive nature that obtained 25 seats. Another list was that of the hard left led by the Communist Party (PC) and the Frente Amplio (FA) together with other movements critical of the previous governments and which refused to make a pact due to considering them neoliberal. They obtained 28 delegates. Another list was organized by the so-called "Non-Neutral Independents" formed by ex-militants or people without political affiliation linked to the center-left world and which obtained 11 seats. Another was the so-called "People's List", formed by radicalized anti-neoliberal sectors who identify themselves with the protests of the social outburst; ecologists, assembly members and those who declare themselves anti-parties; they obtained 27 seats.
The indigenous minorities, representing 10 recognized ethnic groups, raised their own list and will have 17 seats. The agreements for the new constitution required gender parity, which meant that the first two most voted of a list - if they were of the same sex - were not always elected. In that case, the second man or a woman, respectively, had to be assigned in order to achieve parity among those elected. The big surprise was that the list of independents won the majority of the votes, reaching 40.67%, followed by the list of the right-wing forces with 20.56%. In third place was the list of the radical left with 18.74%, and then that of the center-left parties, with a representation of 14.46%. The remaining seats were distributed among smaller groups of environmentalists, humanists, revolutionaries and others.
The great fear of the right-wing today is not only because they did not reach the "golden third", which would allow them to veto provisions contrary to their interests, but also because half of the elected constituents are in favor of deep reforms that can produce structural changes with measures such as the recovery of non-renewable natural resources, the end of the private pension system, the increase of the tax burden, the nationalization of water, whose rights are currently private, and a series of other measures that can alter the economy. For now, the discussion is focused on the beginning of the CC, which starts in June and in whose first session a president, a vice-president and a technical committee should be elected. It is expected to be headed by a woman, thanks to the great struggle and wide presence that women have achieved in Chile's political scene. In addition, a regulation for its operation must be issued, for which various institutions have been working for months preparing drafts. Of the 155 constituents, there are 59 lawyers, including 5 constitutionalists, 19 teachers, 12 engineers, 6 journalists and a broad diversity of other professions, trades and activities.
The second reading of last week's mega election lies in the results obtained by the political forces in the election of governors, mayors and councilmen. This election is the one that measures the strength or representation of the political parties. The biggest surprise was the triumph of the 30 year young female economist Irací Hassler in the central municipality of Santiago, which for the first time in its history will be headed by a communist mayor. Adding to this is the electoral growth of the PC, which increased its electoral participation from 5.47% in 2016, to 9.23%. The FA, emerged in 2012, is formed by Democratic Revolution, Social Convergence and other minor currents, which together reached 9.14% of the votes in this election. The movement was born in universities by students who today are deputies, all of them under 35. Its main leaders are Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old law graduate, and Giorgio Jackson, a 34-year-old civil engineer. The former was proclaimed candidate for the Presidency of the Republic and will participate in the primary election scheduled for July 18, where he will face the communist candidate: the current mayor of a popular commune of the metropolitan region, Daniel Jadue, 53 years old, architect and sociologist, who is among the first preferences in the polls. For the right-wing, besides the trauma caused by not having reached the "golden third", there was the defeat and loss in emblematic cities and communes where its mayors used to govern: Santiago, Viña del Mar, Valdivia and others, together with some other populous communes of the capital. Its electoral strength dropped from 39.1% to the 33.1% it had obtained in the similar vote of 2016. The center-left that by then had obtained 47.1% -including the vote of communists that year- was reduced to 34.1, being a loss that has shaken the political scenario and also had immediate sequels.
The historical axis that gave life to democracy since 1990, that is, the alliance between the Christian Democrat (DC) and Socialist (PS) parties, was broken with the proclamation of Senator Ximena Rincón as a presidential candidate. The socialists questioned her, and she also lost strength within her own party, so that she finally resigned her candidacy. On the other hand, the PS, which had proclaimed the former minister of Michelle Bachelet Paula Narváez, chose to participate in the primary election together with the candidates of the PC and the FA. As in a real soap opera, on the final day to formalize the registration of candidacies before the Electoral Service, sectors of the FA vetoed the PS for its inclusion of other social democrat and liberal forces, particularly the Party for Democracy or PPD, whose presidential candidate Heraldo Muñoz had resigned on the morning of that very day in favor of the socialist candidate. The FA pointed out that they could not go ahead together with a neoliberal party. All this happened a few hours before the deadline, between phone calls, accusations and the media following the events minute by minute. Finally, the PS decided not to register its candidate, and Paula Narváez publicly accused the communists of not respecting the previous agreement and of not guaranteeing governability. She added accusations of machismo and fear that the candidate of the FA would lose the primary election. But the soap opera did not end here. In DC, its president had to resign due to the electoral debacle and the failed presidential negotiation. However, at the last minute, the name of the president of the Senate, Yasna Provoste, fell. Belonging to the most progressive sector of the DC, she is doing well in the polls but did not accept this improvised nomination, leaving the door ajar for an eventual primary election with the socialist candidate.
This could happen indeed and make the center-left have only one representative in the first presidential round on November 21, facing the winner of the primaries between the PC and FA, as well as the winner among the four right-wing candidates.
In short, Chile's political scene suffered a cataclysm that seems to put an end to a stage of politics, mostly due to the emergence of civil society expressed in the growth of forces and movements that declare themselves independent. The current political leadership, in general, is the one that has been punished. And with it the parties that are the pillars of the democratic system and without which democracy is not possible.
Also, the new forms of political campaigning based on social networks were much less successful than walking the territories in spite of the pandemic, talking to people, visiting their homes, attending neighborhood meetings, like many of the new faces who were elected, had done for months. The biggest loser of all is the government of President Sebastián Piñera, which will be remembered as the worst since the return of democracy, abandoned by those who voted him in and even worse, by its own political coalition. The remaining months to the November presidential election will be an intense campaign where the frightened right-wing will use its inexhaustible resources to sow fear. Once the drafting of the new constitution is concluded, it will have to be plebiscized with an obligatory vote, which was also another of the demands imposed by the right-wing. If the new Constitution were rejected, the 1980 Constitution, approved by the civil-military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, would remain in force. A scenario that is clearly unthinkable.