‘Piñera will be forced to respond to the demands for change that began during his last term’
Former Chile president Sebastián Piñera will return to office in March, 2018 after his nine point win in last Sunday’s presidential election run-off against centre-left candidate Alejandro Guillier.
Piñera led Chile throughout the heated 2011-13 student protests for education reform. But the economic savvy that characterised his first term in office — including an average economic growth rate of five percent— failed to satisfy the demands of society gripped by a desire for change. His surprise return to power contrasts with his first term, when he registered one of the lowest approval ratings for an outgoing president in Chile’s democratic history.
The Times spoke to Alexis Cortés, political science and sociology professor at the University of Alberto Hurtado in Santiago, via Skype, about the implications of Piñera’s win and the legacy of the woman he will replace, Michelle Bachelet.
What conclusions can you draw from this election about the maturity or consolidation of Chile’s democracy?
Chile’s transition to democracy has been seen as a pragmatic alternative in Latin America because of the way, among other outcomes, it has permitted the business sector to subordinate the demands of Chilean society.
The student protests that began in 2011 forced a change in this sense; suddenly there was a need to settle the scores of history. The (Michelle) Bachelet government responded to these changes by attempting to overhaul the political pact imposed by (former dictator Augusto) Pinochet, which is the Constitution. She failed to do so completely. The election of Sebastián Piñera is a step backward in this sense but the demands from society remain strong and in some way he will have to respond to them…