Despite a Decisive Win, Pinera’s Second Term in Chile Won’t Be Business as Usual

Despite a Decisive Win, Pinera’s Second Term in Chile Won’t Be Business as Usual
Sebastian Pinera greets supporters as they celebrate his victory in the presidential election runoff, Santiago, Chile, Dec. 17, 2017 (AP photo by Esteban Felix).

Sebastian Pinera put in an underwhelming performance in the first round of Chile’s presidential elections on Nov. 19, winning just 36.6 percent of the vote. Most polls had predicted that the conservative billionaire and former president, running for the center-right Chile Vamos coalition, would take over 40 percent of the vote, and even pass the 50-percent threshold necessary to win outright and return straight to the Moneda, Chile’s presidential palace, which he left in 2014.

Yet following a bitter campaign, Pinera romped to victory on Dec. 22 by a wide, 9-point margin over his second-round opponent, Alejandro Guillier, who failed to keep the incumbent, center-left New Majority coalition in power. The final weeks of the race descended into troubling farce, as Guillier took to quoting Che Guevara and suddenly adopted soak-the-rich rhetoric, while Pinera made unprecedented—and unsubstantiated—allegations of voter fraud. His win is the latest electoral victory for the political right in Latin America.

Pinera will don the presidential sash in March after making few overt promises on the campaign trail—other than a general pro-business finessing of the social reforms made by his two-time predecessor, Michelle Bachelet—and with signs suggesting that his Cabinet will be composed of similar figures to his first term. So it would be easy to conclude that the election changed little in Chile, and that policymaking for the next four years will be a breeze.

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