Presidential elections in Chile and Ukraine

This Sunday, 17 January, voters in Chile and Ukraine will vote in presidential elections. In Ukraine the vote will be the first round of a near-certain two-round contest, while in Chile it is a top-two runoff.

This will be Ukraine’s first presidential election since the Orange Revolution of late 2004, and the man whose name was chanted for days and nights by the crowds in the central square of Kyiv, Viktor Yushchenko, is expected to place no higher than third and thus be eliminated. I wonder how often an incumbent president fails to place in the top two–not very often, I presume. The runoff would thus pit Yuliya Tymoshenko against Viktor Yanukovych–the same two who have taken turns in the prime minister’s chair since the Orange Revolution. Given the voting patterns that have characterized Ukraine’s legislative elections during Yushchenko’s term, one hardly needs to consult the polls to predict that Yanukovych will “win” the first round (leading to predictable hand-wringing about Ukraine returning to Russia’s orbit), but Tymoshenko will win the decisive second round.

In Chile, most of the polls and punditry say that this is the year that the right, behind the candidacy of Sebastian Pinera, wins executive power through an election for the first time since 1958. I would not write off the Concertacaion (center-left) candidate, Eduardo Frei, just yet, however. A poll this week puts Pinera up only 50.9-49.1. Needless to say, that’s too close to call. Pinera led 44.1 to 29.6, with 20.1 for independent-left candidate Marco Enríquez-Ominami Gumucio (ME-O), in the first round. So the big factor is how many ME-O voters get over their unhappiness with ex-president Frei of the Christian Democratic Party being the center-left candidate and return to the Concertacion fold for the runoff. In the legislative elections held concurrent with the first round, the two main blocs were very close (44.4 for the Concertacion and 43.4 for the Coalicion por el Cambio for the Chamber of Deputies). Obviously, many ME-O voters kept to the old habit of voting Concertacion for the legislative race. Will they do so in the presidential runoff? (First round discussion at F&V.)

2 thoughts on “Presidential elections in Chile and Ukraine

  1. Regarding Chile, I completely concur with your assessment on their presidential runoff. For what it’s worth, ME-O extended a personal endorsement to Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle last week, but it was so obviously half-hearted that I’m not sure if it’s really going to put Frei ahead of Piñera: about one in five ME-O voters is expected to vote for Piñera, while the rest will be split between Frei or voting blank/void (if not staying at home).

    One factor that may (or may not) influence the race are the recent findings on the 1982 death of Frei’s father, Eduardo Frei Montalva – the founding leader of Chile’s Christian Democratic Party and the country’s (and Latin America’s) first Christian Democratic president (1964-70). Until recently, the official version had been that Frei died from post-operation complications, but it appears that he might have been actually poisoned while in the hospital by Pinochet regime’s agents.

    At any rate, it’s an unwelcome reminder of the cruelty of Pinochet’s dictatorship, all the more so because while Piñera has sought to portray a moderate image, quite a few people in his camp are still of the view that Pinochet was good for Chile because “he delivered the country from Communism.”

    I mostly concur with your assessment on Ukraine’s presidential poll, but I should note that President Yushchenko is not running in third place in the polls, but more like fifth or sixth. In any event, with Yushchenko seemingly on his way out, the Russians don’t appear to have a clear favorite this time around.

    By the way, a recent poll carried out by a Russian outfit suggests La Tymoshenko may be shut out of the runoff as well; the NY Times covers the poll here and Angus Reid Global Monitor has more details here. However, in Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election polls coming out of Russia were a source of deliberate misinformation, so I would take these numbers with a grain of salt – they may be up to their old tricks again.

  2. In order to update the discussion, the Presidential elections in Chile held last Sunday January 17, ended with 20-years of Concertación governments.
    The right-wing candidate from the Coalición por el Cambio, Sebastián Piñera, won the runoff as expected with 51.61% of votes, over 48.39% obtained by the Concertación’s candidate, the former President Eduardo Frei.
    Putting numbers, in the first round Piñero got 44%, Frei 29%, ME-O 20%, and the Communist candidate (Arrate) 7%. As expected, Arrate voters inclined to Frei in the runoff, as well as the majority of ME-O’s ones. But despite ME-O’s program was more similar to Frei’s than Piñera’s, and ME-O himself had his origins in the Concertación, there was 36% of the original ME-O voters who finally supported Piñera’s option in the runoff (comparing first and second round, and discounting non-valid ballots). Piñera only needed 25% of ME-O’s votes to win the elections.

    Eventough the espectacular rise in votes achieved by Frei (almost 20 percent points in one month), this runoff confirms the ‘double complement rule’ logic. The distance in the first round between Piñera and the necessary 50%, and the more than double distance needed by Frei related to the Piñera distance to the goal, demonstrated the almost impossible path to had Frei to win.

    What’s coming now? Former President Ricardo Lagos already sent the road map: Concertación’s old guard should step down and let the pass to the new generation (would it include ME-O back?) if it wants to survive as a coalition.

    From my point of view, nowdays Socialists need more the Christian Democrats than in the inverse to build up a solid, but more important, united, opposition. If not possible, and the Christian Democrat Party decides to move alone to the center to feel free to obtain political agreements with the Piñera’s government, the Concertación will be counting its final days.

    On the other hand, the right-wing coalition will have to demonstrate not only an efficient, growth-orientated government, but also show its commitment with the high level democratic standards just to leave very, truly in the past, the Pinochet infamous legacy. A majority gave Piñera that confidence vote.

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