Chilean president elect conservative Sebastian Piñera, the man who handed the political left in Chile its first defeat in 20 years, , says that presidents with high popularity ratings, like Michelle Bachelet in Chile, and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, do not necessarily transfer votes to their own candidates.
Piñera said he was proof that popular presidents do not always elect their chosen successors.
According him, the population’s desire for change drives the vote more than popularity ratings. “It’s true that president Bachelet is very popular, and so is Lula. When I visited Brazil I talked to Lula about this. You have to be careful and not confuse high popularity with the need for change,” said Piñera.
Final election totals in Chile show Piñera got 51.6% of the votes, while his opponent, Eduardo Frei, a former president supported by Bachelet and a center-left coalition, got 48.3%.
The closest presidential race in recent Chilean history was in 1970, when Salvador Allende was elected in his fourth attempt, with 36.63% of the vote, to 35.29% for former president Alessandri (it was the law at that time to have congress decide the winner when no one got a majority and it was customary for congress to give victory to the candidate with the most votes).
Allende got 40,000 more votes than Alessandri out of a voting population of 3.5 million (another candidate in the 1970 election, Tomic, got 28% of the vote).
Speaking to reporters, Piñera said he knew the presidential candidates in Brazil but would not comment on the Brazilian election. The Brazilian conservative party, DEM, is known to have a friendly relationship with the new president of Chile.
Among the Brazilian DEMs, Piñera is closest to the former mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Cesar Maia.
Piñera said he was not a typical right-wing politician. And he said he did not consider Lula a left-wing president. “Lula is probably more center-left. But in my personal opinion Lula is just a part of democracy. This whole business of right and left is becoming irrelevant.”