In the political scenario, traditional actors that have marked the political history of the country are beginning to lose strength, bringing us closer to what already is, or could be, an "end of an era". In the primary elections of last July 18th, 3.143.006 people voted, representing slightly more than 20% of the electorate, to determine the candidates of the coalitions that will compete for the presidency of the republic on November 21. The results surprised the left and the right alike. The latter is still looking for explanations for the three successive electoral defeats of its main parties, Renovación Nacional (RN), Unión Demócrata Independiente (UDI) and Evópolis (E). They lost in October 2020, in the plebiscite for a new constitution, then in last May's elections of constituents, governors, mayors and councilmen. The last defeat was in the recent primaries where the favorite candidate, Joaquín Lavín (67), former minister, former mayor and twice presidential candidate, lost widely to an independent, Sebastián Sichel (43), who for a year served as a minister in Sebastián Piñera's government, gaining his confidence.
On the other hand, the left, which for months led the polls with the candidate of the Communist Party (PC), Mayor Daniel Jadue (54), was widely defeated by Deputy Gabriel Boric (35), representative of the Frente Amplio (FA), which groups a good part of the new generation of the Chilean left. The great absentee in the primaries was the center-left that has governed Chile for 24 years, the enlarged coalition that today gathers the so-called Constituent Unity (UC), formed mainly by Christian democrats, social democrats and other parties, and the Chilean left, the "Unidad Constituyente" (UC), formed mainly by Christian democrats, social democrats and other minor movements. The main reason was not to agree in time on a single candidacy of the left and the UC to join these elections due to the veto imposed by the former to parties it considers neoliberal. Finally, on July 25, the UC agreed to hold a consultation with the bases, open and with face-to-face voting, to determine a candidate among the three candidates of the Socialist Party (PS), Christian Democracy (DC) and Radicals (PR) who will have to face the candidate of the right, Sichel, and of the left, Boric.
The DC was born in 1957 as the merger of political groups of social inspiration -advanced conservatives- who saw the need to modernize Chilean society and to stop the expansion of communism which, after World War II, had settled in most of Europe and China. The thought of the French philosopher Jacques Maritain influenced a generation of young Catholic professionals committed to the church and politics, generating a renewal in part of the thinking of the Chilean right-wing that brought them closer to the political center. When they came to power in 1964, they installed a reformist message to end the semi-feudal latifundia that existed in the country, implementing the agrarian reform, expanding education and reducing the shameful presence of U.S. companies that profited in mining, through the so-called "chilenization", by which the State acquired a percentage of foreign companies.
For its part, the centenary PC, with impeccable democratic credentials in times of institutional normality, has its origins in the Partido Obrero Socialista (POS) formed in 1912 in the north of the country by the printer, workers' leader and intellectual, Luis Emilio Recabarren. It was him, influenced by the triumph of the Russian revolution, who promoted its transformation into the PC in 1922. That same year he traveled to Moscow where he immersed himself in revolutionary thought and two years later committed suicide, in December 1924, the same year of the death of Lenin. Recabarren was a true social fighter, who marked a generation of leftist leaders in Chile and Latin America. Both parties, the DC and the PC, are today part of the ashes of the cold war that devastated Latin America since the triumph of the Cuban revolution in 1959 and seem not to have understood the magnitude of the political and cultural epochal change. The DC made the fight against communism its own with the unconditional support of the United States, becoming an implacable enemy of the left and of the government headed by Salvador Allende, even supporting the 1973 coup d'état, with the honorable and rare exceptions of a small group of leaders who bore witness to this. On the other hand, former president Eduardo Frei Montalva justified the brutal overthrow and then went on to lead the opposition to the dictatorship until he was assassinated by Pinochet, as has been demonstrated in the courts.
The PC was unconditional to the then Soviet Union, to which they continue to keep religious loyalty and worship, resisting to review their past. Something similar happens with the DC, which to this day hesitates to recognize its involvement and alliance with the right-wing and the government of Richard Nixon in the coup against President Allende. The Chilean PC refuses to clean up its Stalinist past, they have never made a self-criticism and condemnation of the great terror or purges of the 30's that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of communists including the five members of Lenin's politburo or the concentration camps in Siberia, the assassination of Trotsky in Mexico and the shameful Soviet interventions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, among others. Today they defend and salute North Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
The DC and the PC continue to exist in Chile and are still in good health. The communists, with a parliamentary presence and about 10% of the electorate, have just lost the presidential primary, but their candidate, the mayor, sociologist and architect Daniel Jadue, obtained almost 700 thousand votes. What must be pointed out is that this great vote was not obtained because of his communist militancy but because of his successful management as a committed, innovative and well-managed mayor in a popular commune. The Christian Democrats maintain a strong electoral presence reflected in their parliamentary bench, governors, mayors and councilmen where there are valuable examples of honesty and commitment. Their problem is that they have remained between two waters: they declare themselves to be of the center, they form part of a center-left coalition, but vote too often with the traditional right. Even important figures, including former party presidents, have left the party and moved to the right. In the years of the dictatorship, they reaffirmed their democratic center position by establishing a strong alliance with the opposition forces and with the Socialist Party (PS) in particular. The latter underwent a strong renovation in the 1980s, reaffirming a clear social democratic vocation.
However, it has not been free from factionalism, members have left the party - including two former presidents - and it is accused of having been a strong supporter of neoliberal policies. This fed the flight of young people and the adhesion to the Frente Amplio, which groups political organizations that emerged in the last 20 years mainly in the universities, being severe questioners of the center-left governments. Today they are celebrating the victory in the primaries of one of their leaders, Gabriel Boric, who obtained more than one million votes, beating the communist candidate. It will not be easy to maintain internal cohesion due to the countless number of movements that make up the FA and the maximalism of some. They vindicate the role of the state, seeking a more egalitarian society in terms of rights such as education, health, pensions, environment and culture, among other issues. In addition, it openly condemns the lack of freedom of press, association and democracy in countries such as Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua, where they consider human rights are violated, being one of the main differences with the PC.
The right-wing parties maintain a myopic view in their evaluation of reality, keeping strong emotional ties with the Pinochet dictatorship. They opposed the referendum for a new constitution, where they lost resoundingly. They are part of the government headed by Sebastián Piñera, who will be remembered as the worst president in 30 years of democracy, and they ran in the primary elections with four candidates, one of whom was an independent. Three of them showed signs of renewal by accepting, for example, homosexual marriage. The winner, Sebastián Sichel, a lawyer, claims to be far from the traditional right-wing. Former militant of the DC and of another minor center party, Ciudadanos, he obtained 660,000 votes and has taken part in the renewal discourse of the so-called social right. He maintains strong links with a sector of the business community that understood that Chile changed after the social outburst of 2019. Today he will have to compose an alliance with the defeated candidates where there is a strong conservative presence, the same that for 30 years have opposed the main social transformations, such as the end of the private pension system, gay marriage or the nationalization of water.
The great absentee of the great primary was the center-left where there are two women and one man who disputes a leadership that will be decided on August 21. All three were ministers of former President Michelle Bachelet: Paula Narváez (49), socialist, psychologist; Yasna Provoste (51), of the DC, current president of the Senate, professor, and Carlos Maldonado (58), lawyer, president of the PR. It has not been possible, to date, to determine the mechanism to determine who will represent the sector on the electoral ballot, which has had to be satisfied with observing the triumphs in the primary elections of Boric and Sichel. One of the first consequences of the result is that there are already sectors of the coalition in favor of Provoste's candidacy, some who would prefer to adhere to Boric's candidacy, while some people who occupied relevant positions in the DC are among the supporters of Sichel's candidacy. The registration deadline is August 23, so it is a real race against time to mobilize the largest number of adherents of the center-left without the logistical and financial support of a legal primary.
What is new in this election process, which will be defined in the first round on November 18, is that the wind of generational renewal has finally made its presence felt, as demonstrated by the ample triumph of Boric on the left and Sichel on the right. There is the new political reality, of generational change, in a framework of new challenges such as climate change, the discussion of a new constitution in progress and where the issues of women's participation in equal conditions in all spheres of life have come to stay. The same is true for the respect and dignity deserved by indigenous peoples, sexual diversity, the environment, decentralization and, of course, human rights. What the last votes occurred after the massive protests of 2019 show is that Chilean society is accepting the new reality made evident by the generations freed from atavistic dogmas. A sector of the right has had to move towards the center, and another will remain in the extreme, with a candidate of xenophobic, homophobic discourse and trying to save the principle of subsidiarity. At the other extreme is the PC and groups even further to the left, some of which seek a total refoundation of the country, ignoring the progress achieved in 30 years of democracy.
In short, the first electoral round will have several candidates and it seems that, according to electoral experts and to the Chilean experience gathered in three primary elections held, the passage to the second round of the FA candidate, Gabriel Boric, is assured due to the massive vote he obtained. Who will accompany him? This is the question that is being asked by the right and the center-left. The generational change is an irreversible fact. The communist candidacy will put pressure on Boric from the left, just as the extreme right will put pressure on Sichel. The maturity of the voters has been reflected in the massiveness with which they have voted for changes but isolating the extremes. It will depend on the alliances that are established and the government programs that are presented, towards which the electoral pendulum will swing. In November it is expected that the Covid pandemic will have receded, the economy will be growing and there will be an increase in jobs. Part of the right-wing has turned to a young candidate, who declares himself to be of the center-right, because of the fear that the run-off election, which will surely take place, will be between the candidate of the left, Boric, and a woman of the center-left, possibly Yasna Provoste, as the polls indicate and the press repeats.
The average age of the 3 main candidates, assuming that the third one will be Provoste, is only 43 years old, which shows a rejuvenation, while the electoral picture returns in the first round to the three thirds that characterized Chilean politics in the past. Defeating Sichel will not be an easy task. His political trajectory has been chameleonic, having already been a militant in two parties and having been a minister in the current government of Piñera, who would have triggered his nomination. He represents a sort of appealing "gatopardism" to leave the economic system without major transformations. Boric will have to maintain the so-called "early loyalty" reflected in the primary vote and resist the attacks of the hard and maximalist left that will see in each act or proposal, a surrender and claudication of principles. Provoste's eventual candidacy will have to fight against the great ghost of her own party, the DC, which does not enjoy the best prestige among the new generations and re-enchant the electorate that for 24 years supported the center-left coalitions that successfully governed Chile.