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Chile: Sebastian Piñera is the Next President

The center-left coalition party Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia said goodbye to 20 years of ruling in post-dictatorial Chile. For the first time after democracy was reinstituted in Chile with the end of Augusto Pinochet’s regime in 1990, a right-wing candidate – Sebatián Piñera Echeñique, was pronounced president-elect.

Sebastián Piñera's Campaign Symbol-This is How We Want Chile, by Comando de Sebastián Piñera

Sebastián Piñera's Campaign Symbol-This How We Want Chile, by Comando de Sebastián Piñera and used under a Creative Commons license

With 51.61% of the votes [es], Piñera from the Coalición por el Cambio (Change Coalition), a coalition of center-right leaning parties, defeated the candidate presented by the Concertación, Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, in a runoff election held on January 17.

This historic election has been on bloggers’ radars for months. For some, like Monserrat Nicolas at Curvas Políticas [es] this election was more of the same:

Con cada ciclo electoral, la Concertación saca del closet “el pasado” y machaca el tema de la “dictadura” ante lo cual la Alianza responde con la “corrupción eterna” y su elevada postura moral. Todo porque le es oportuno para captar votos.

With each electoral cycle, the Concertación brings out of the closet “the past” and insists on the issue of the “dictatorship” to which the Alianza responds with the “eternal corruption” and their elevated moral standing. All this because it’s opportune to get votes

But Sergio Correa Espinosa from the blog Política Ficción [es] shows a more positive take on this election:

Independiente del candidato que salga victorioso, Chile ya no será el mismo a partir del lunes. Esta elección, mas que todas las anteriores de los últimos 20 años, marcaran con toda seguridad un antes y un después. El desgaste de la Concertación, la aparición de nuevas fuerzas políticas, la posibilidad cierta de que la derecha gane la elección y el empoderamiento ciudadano, hacen que independiente de cual sea la coalición ganadora, el mapa político chileno se reorganice después del domingo 17.

Independent of which candidate is victorious, Chile will not be the same from Monday on. This election, more than all the ones before, of the last 20 years, marks with all certainty a before and an after. The wear on the Concertación, the emergence of new political forces, the certain possibility that the right will win the election, and citizen empowerment, have caused that, independently from what coalition wins, the Chilean political map will be reorganized after Sunday the 17th.
Photo of jubilant Piñera supporter by Sopapos and used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo of jubilant Piñera supporter by Sopapos and used under a Creative Commons license.

Espinosa’s analysis and enthusiasm about Chile’s democracy was one shared by many other bloggers and Twitter users—even when their preferred candidate was nor the winner, as Chileans quickly voiced their opinions through these tools. Rodrigo Maragaño [es], creative director of doop.cl, posted a phrase on Twitter that was enthusiastically re-twittered by Frei supporters and anti-Piñera Twitter users:

Con respecto a estas elecciones, acá va mi opinión: Chile necesita pasar por un Bush para elegir un Obama.

With respect to the these elections, here is my opinion: Chile needed to go through a Bush to elect an Obama

On the other hand, Professor of Political Philosophy Gonzalo Bustamante Kuschel wrote positively about Piñera on his blog [es]:

Triunfó, seamos claro, el candidato que tenía más condiciones […] Si hay algo que tiene el nuevo presidente es energía, aguante e inteligencia.

Let’s be clear, the candidate that triumphed was the one with the best chances […] If there is something that the new president has, it is his energy, perseverance, and intelligence.

However, for many voters who can only remember a dictatorial rule from the right, Piñera presents a big question mark: How will a right-leaning president rule in today’s Chilean democracy? Left-leaning blog Chile Liberal [es] tells the president-elect:

El país le dijo NO a la dictadura en 1988, y ha repetido la misma respuesta por más de 20 años. Señor Piñera: no crea que ahora Chile cambió de opinión. Actúa como estadista y consciente de que escribes la historia del país […] Limítate Tatán a dar estabilidad para que la sociedad dialogue. El que manda es el pueblo, no tú. Tu función es administrar las cuestiones de Estado, y no dártelas de no sé qué cosa.

The country said NO to the dictatorship in 1988, and it has repeated the same answer for more than 20 years, Mister Piñera: don’t think that Chile now has changed its mind. Act like a statesman and be conscious that you are writing the history of the country [...] Limit yourself Tatán (Piñera's nickname) to providing stability and social dialogue. The people rule, not you. Your job is to administer state maters, and not to get too arrogant.

Other bloggers, like lawyer and journalist Héctor Soto [es] see this election as a positive step in the right direction toward the country’s reconciliation after the Pinochet dictatorship, and after the 20 years of ruling by the “transition” government:

El triunfo de Sebastián Piñera pone fin al veto de dos décadas con que el electorado castigó a la centroderecha por su falta de sintonía con los tiempos y por su colaboración con el gobierno militar […] Si Piñera hace de Chile un país más eficiente, cumplirá la promesa. Pero sólo sorprenderá si hace un país más equitativo y mejor

The victory of Sebastián Piñera puts an end to the veto of two decades with which the electorate punished the center-left for its lack of being out of touch with the times and for its collaboration with the military government […] If Piñera makes Chile a more efficient country, he will have followed the promise. However, he will only surprise us if he makes the country better and more equal.

Chileans were not the only ones attentive to the elections; Twitter users from other Latin American countries, especially Venezuela, expressed their admiration for Chile’s democracy and electoral process, like Venezuelan Gisela Carmona [es]:

Que envidia Chile, su democracia, sus elecciones, sus candidatos, sus discursos, su civismo… Viva la democracia

How envious I am of Chile, for its democracy, its elections, its candidates, its speeches, its civism…Long live democracy

Sebastian Piñera will assume power at La Moneda (the seat of the President) on March 11, 2010. He will serve a 4-year term, and in accordance to Chile’s constitution, he will not be allowed to run for a second consecutive term.

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