- Created: Tuesday, 12 December 2017 13:41
- Written by Sheila Rubio
The first round of Chile’s presidential elections held on 19 November 2017 produced a surprising political result. Despite a low turnout of 46.7%, the new grassroots coalition Frente Amplio (FA – Broad Front), led by Beatriz Sanchez, obtained 20.3% of the vote, winning 21 of the 155 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. FA was not predicted to get more than 15%. Former right-wing president Sebastian Piñera led the field, with 36.6% rather than an expected 44%, while social democratic standard bearer Alejandro Guillier was runner-up, creeping past Sanchez with 22.7%. The run-off between Piñera and Guillier is taking place on 17 December. The chances are that Piñera will again don the presidential sash, although this will depend on whether FA supporters decide to vote for Guillier in the second round or abstain.
FA’s political origins lie in the past decade of student protests which began in 2006, when secondary school students took to the streets in their school uniforms to demonstrate against poor state-provided education coupled with expensive private education and high bus fares – the so-called Penguin protests. In 2011, protests erupted again, this time involving higher education students as well: schools and universities were occupied, and there was a broader dimension as the whole education system came under attack with demands to nationalise all private provision (see FRFI 223 – ‘Chile: Student revolt challenges the Pinochet order’). Other movements joined in as anger spilled over at the appalling privatised pension system, poor state healthcare provision, the constant attacks on the indigenous Mapuche people, and a continuous assault on the environment sanctioned by successive governments in favour of mining multinationals. From this came a call for a constituent assembly to write a replacement for the dictator Pinochet’s 1980 constitution: this was a central element of FA’s platform.