Conservative businessman, Sebastian Piñera’s victory in Chile as president against a candidate supported by a very popular president with an 80% approval rating following a 20-year hold on power by a center-left coalition has raised eyebrows among political analysts and raised hopes in the Brazilian opposition.
The leadership of the DEM, PSDB and PSB are excited. And even some supporters of Lula are thinking: good popularity ratings might not be enough to elect a successor.
Senator José Agripino Maia (Rio Grande do Norte), the leader of the DEM, observed that “People vote according to the circumstances and make their own decisions. They don’t vote for someone they are told to vote for.”
He added that what happened in Chile could happen in Brazil where Lula is trying to make Dilma Rousseff, the presidential Chief of Staff, his successor.
Senator Demóstenes Torres (DEM, Goiás) the chairman of the Constitution and Justice Commission, said the result in Chile did not mean that the leftist government in Chile was bad, but rather that, at this moment, the voters thought that a conservative president could make the necessary changes in economic and social policies in a more effective manner.
Torres said that although Lula would have influence in Brazil’s presidential elections later this year, “It is possible that the overriding factor will be a sincere desire for change by the voters.” In that case a defeat of Dilma Rousseff would not necessarily be a rejection of Lula, concluded Torres.
The vice leader of the PSDB in the Senate, Álvaro Dias (Paraná) also believes that Lula will carry weight in the election, but not enough to decide the result in favor of his candidate, Dilma Rousseff. Dias said he has seen polls showing that Lula will transfer votes to Rousseff, but not enough to decide the election.
Another opposition politician, Rodrigo Rollemberg (Federal District), the leader of the PSB in the lower house, says he has the same idea. “The situation of president Bachelet was similar to Lula’s. It shows that what happened in Chile could happen in Brazil. The president may be unable to elect Dilma.”
The leader of the government, Ideli Salvatti (PT, Santa Catarina) says any comparison between Chile and Brazil is premature. “A lot of people are excited about what happened, but I think that Chile is Chile and Brazil is Brazil. This is a false transposition.”
Salvatti said the circumstances were distinct. In Chile there was a sharply polarized election and a lot of new voters who did not know the other candidate, Frei, a former president. “Even the best of governments have a hard time dealing with a new face,” she concluded.
The government of Michelle Bachelet conceded defeat only two hours after the polls closed, announcing that the opposition candidate, Sebastian Piñera, had won the presidential election on Sunday, defeating Eduardo Frei. It was a tight race: Piñera 51.8% and Frei 48.1%.
Out of more than 8,200,000 eligible voters, only 4.1 million took the trouble to vote. People were not too excited about the election and it is summertime in Chile. The number of blank and annulled votes were lower than expected however.
This is the first time in 52 years that a conservative candidate is elected president. The last time was in the 1960s, when the conservative Alessandri defeated the socialist Allende.
In the 1970s Allende was finally elected with tragic results. For the last twenty years, since the end of the Pinochet era, Chile has been governed by left-center parties.