By Satyaki Chakraborty
Chilean Communist Party candidate Daniel Jadue has emerged as the front-runner ahead of November’s presidential elections, with a number of opinion polls predicting he could sweep to power. If that happens, that will be the beginning a new chapter in the polity of the region after the victory of the self styled Marxist Castillo in the presidential elections last month.
Pollster Cadem, which has close connections to the right-wing government of President Sebastien Pinera, was the latest to place Mr. Jadue top for popular support this week, above Joaquin Lavin, the far-right candidate of the Independent Democratic Union, and the Christian Democratic Party’s Yasna Provote, who has yet to formally declare as a candidate.
It follows a recent Panel Ciudadano survey, carried out by the Universidad delDesarrollo, which found that Mr. Jadue would win in all possible scenarios, including run-offs against his two closest rivals. This will be a big turnaround in the political life of this small LA nation which suffered fascist rule for decades after the overthrow of the socialist president Salvador Allende in a military coup in 1973 .
The rise of Mr. Jadue, the Communist mayor of Santiago’s Recoleta district, comes as leftists are positioned to return to power across Latin America in 2020 and 2021. In 2020, the leftists came to power in Bolivia and in May 2021, in the national assembly and governors elections in Mexico, the leftist Morena won handsomely, indicating the control of the popular Mexican president AMLO who came to power in2018. Mexico is taking the lead in the region by having an alliance of the leftist regimes .
With LuizInacio “Lula” da Silva tipped to win next year’s Brazilian presidential election and Daniel Ortega expected to retain the presidency in Nicaragua, Mr. Jadue’s popularity reflects a regional pattern. Chilean Communist Party is a leading force in the movement for constitutional changes and Jadue has an excellent relation ns with other anti-right parties. That way, his popularity is also to the common masses outside the Communist Party fold.
“This is the result of people coming to the realization that neoliberal policies are incompatible with democracy,” he said, blaming unbridled capitalism for Chile’s economic and social “disaster.”
His plans for higher taxes, a revamp of the pension system, more state involvement in the economy, and regional cooperation to discourage companies from crossing borders for lower tax rates have struck a chord with Chileans.
Mr. Jadue also plans an overhaul of the country’s copper-mining industry, bringing an end to the exploitation of resources by multinational companies, and will negotiate production rules with neighbouring countries.
“The state must have a stake in all mining operations because the state is the owner of all of the minerals,” he said.
Chile has seen major unrest, with a record 1.2 million people taking to the streets of capital Santiago at the peak of the anti-government protests sparked by a proposed rise in metro prices in October 2019.
Anger has also grown over rising poverty and the privatization of public services. But instead of listening to concerns, Mr. Pinera set the military onto the streets for the first time since the Pinochet-era dictatorship.
Chile is presently going through political change. In May, Chileans voted to elect an assembly that will write a new constitution. Those elected to redraw the country’s magna carta feature a large contingent of independents. Left-wing parties are most favorably positioned among institutional actors, but right-wing parties did not reach the one-third threshold needed to enjoy veto power.
At the end of 2019, months of social protest and days of violence across Chile gripped the country. At the time, mainstream political forces and President Sebastian Pinera’s government managed to appease the protesters and halt social upheaval. In return, he gave in to growing calls for a vote on whether or not Chile should get a new constitution.
Almost a year later, in October 2020, Chileans voted in a national referendum and chose to abandon their current constitution, which was inherited from the era of General Augusto Pinochet. Now, the people have elected an assembly that is in charge of writing and proposing a new charter.
In a race that represented a political earthquake, 155 constituents were elected to form a Constitutional Convention. Chile’s traditional political elite lost significant ground to independent candidates, political influencers and social movements.
Centre-right and centre-left parties, which led the transition to democracy in the 1990s, took the hardest hit. Chile Vamos, a centre-right coalition led by the president, failed to reach the one-third of seats it expected. Pinera has led the country since 2018 and had previously governed between 2010 and 2014. The loss means Chile Vamos cannot veto reforms perceived as too left leaning.
Apruebo Dignidad, a new, more militant left-wing coalition, outperformed the traditional centre left, known simply as Apruebo. Now, Apruebo Dignidad has senior-partner status and a more favourable position within the Constitutional Convention than the Apruebo coalition. A faction of the Apruebo Dignidad coalition, known as the Frente Amplio, first entered the political stage in 2017, emerging from student movements with a militant agenda.
Independent candidates are the biggest winners. The convention is controlled by 64 per cent of constituents who do not belong to a political party — only 36 per cent of them are party militants, excluding the 17 seats reserved for indigenous peoples. However, it is fair to say that most of these independent constituents have left-leaning affinities.
The next step in the country’s constitutional process includes the swearing-in of the convention, which will be on July 4. This will be followed by nine months of discussions and the drafting of the new magna carta. Once the new constitution is ready, a national plebiscite or referendum will be held in which Chileans will vote on whether to adopt it.
Last month, just 43 per cent of the 15 million registered voters cast their ballot, representing just over 6 million in a country of around 19 million people. Taking into account the number of null-and-void votes and blank ballot papers, only 38.3 per cent of registered voters chose their preferred candidates for the composition of the Constitutional Convention. The numbers were even worse in the election of governors, which took place on June 13, in which only 19.6 per cent of voters participated. This was the worst rate ever recorded in Chile.
But political observers are saying that after the latest opinion polls, there is a new wave of optimism among the common people who were disenchanted with the right and many centrist political leaders. They are nursing hopes that there might be positive change under Danielle Jadue. The communists are also approaching the voters projecting Jadue as the candidate of people. Chile polity is thus undergoing a big churn indicating the possibility of a brighter tomorrow. (IPA Service)