Chileans’ Presidential Election: Will the country’s ‘fastest growing economy’ end?

After a historic first round, Chileans will head to a run-off vote on Sunday, with Ricardo Lagos and Sebastian Pinera looking to win over voters with polar opposites on the economy.

By all accounts, Pinera is a moderate, pro-business, pro-market candidate, while Lagos is a fierce critic of the way privatization allowed corporations to fill up with dangerous amounts of debt.

Pinera wants to slash taxes and make it easier for Chile to privatize hospitals, while Lagos is arguing that Chilean families shouldn’t have to pay for health care out of their pockets.

According to a Gallup poll, 81 percent of Chileans would like to see Lagos win. However, Pinera has the support of 54 percent of Chileans.

Lagos and Pinera both have strong ties to the Democracia Nacional, or National Democratítica, a party of Brazilian left-wing President Dilma Rousseff.

Pinera was Rousseff’s first vice president and Lagos served in her Cabinet under Bachelet, who led Chile to the title of having the strongest economy in Latin America over the past decade, but many Chileans felt the country is losing its way with its increasingly liberal policies.

Pinera is a long-time businessman who lives in Santiago and has two kids who are seven and five years old. Lagos is a charismatic former journalist and academic who describes himself as “an intellectual who doesn’t follow the herd.”

If Lagos wins on Sunday, it will be the first time a leftist has won the presidency in Chile, but not the first time a left-wing party has been in power. In the 2000 election, Correa, a Trotskyite, won with a moderate socialist agenda.

It would be seen by many as a repudiation of the outgoing president, who said during his campaign, “I don’t think in terms of left or right, I think in terms of leadership and common interest.”

The election is expected to be extremely close, however, and with voters deeply polarized, there is a growing possibility of a major upset, and a question about whether the left has its swan song on Sunday.

By Jorge Arce, Political Editor for the Semana news site in Chile

Leave a Comment