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Chile, Bachelet and the Ostensible ‘Lurch to the Left’

Bottom Line: How far left will Bachelet take Chile? Not as far as it might seem in the face of continual political stalemate.

Analysis: Analysts across the political spectrum have been opining for months on what the results of Chile’s 17 November general elections would say about the country’s political future. Michelle Bachelet (New Majority Coalition/Socialist Party), who served as a center-left president from 2006-2010, was up against the conservative Evelyn Matthei (Alliance/Independent Democratic Union), who was consistently polling 10-20 points behind Ms. Bachelet.

Two questions, however, remained. First, how big would Bachelet’s win be? She needed 51% of the vote to avoid a 15 December runoff. Here, Bachelet lost out narrowly; she secured only 47% of the vote to Matthei’s 25%. This has been the norm since Chile’s return to democracy, save for the election of President Patricio Aylwin in 1989. But for Bachelet, whose approval ratings skyrocketed after she left the office to the widely unpopular Sebastian Pinera (National Renewal/Coalition for Change), it was a bittersweet victory.

The second question surrounding the election was how hard to the left Bachelet would tack following her election, which would primarily be determined by her coalition’s legislative showing. Chilean political parties in search of a convincing electoral mandate must overcome the country’s binomial system, which allots equal representation…

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