Forty-six years ago, my father and a couple of friends from Chile were monitoring election reports from Chile on the Spanish short wave service of Voice of America. As I recall, the election results went late into the evening and the next few days. In the end, Salvador Allende was elected president in a four-way race. Eventually, the Chilean Supreme Court had to decide because the winner was under 40%.
It did not take long for Mr. Allende to show his true colors. Allende extended diplomatic recognition to North Vietnam, North Korea, and Cuba. He also went after U.S. companies like ITT and Kennecott Copper.
It did not take long before Chile’s very stable political system fell into a political and economic crisis. Mr. Allende was eventually overthrown by General Pinochet in 1973.
On Sunday, Chile went to the polls again and the right did well in the regional elections as reported by Reuters:
Chile’s right snatched dozens of mayoralties on Sunday from the governing center-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.
Conservative candidates won the majority of key swing cities, including central Santiago, a municipality inside the capital that is considered an electoral bellwether.
“This reflects that residents are tired of incomplete promises,” the conservative mayor-elect of central Santiago, Felipe Alessandri, told Reuters. “Citizens have made their annoyance at the old practices of politicians clear, and they have made clear that they expect to be listened to.”
We’ve told you before about the Latin American middle class electing President Mauricio Macri in Argentina and in total revolt over the corruption in Brazil. Chile’s results are a huge rejection of President Michelle Bachelet’s efforts to move the country a bit to the left, as Bloomberg reported:
For many voters, Bachelet has gone too far in her attempts to reform the free-market economic model imposed under Pinochet, as the economy posts the slowest sustained growth in more than 30 years.
For another group, she hasn’t gone far enough, while many others were disenchanted after a series of financing scandals tarnished the reputation of parties across the political spectrum.
Chile has been the jewel of Latin American economies. In other words, the leftist message does not play well in a country like Chile with a prosperous middle class. I am very pleased with these results because they reinstate our faith in the middle class.