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Chile’s Pack of Presidential Aspirants Emerge

By: Ángel Soto - @angelsotochile - Aug 19, 2014, 11:04 am

EspañolA recent poll by the Public Studies Center (CEP), undoubtedly the most prestigious source in Chile, shows President Michele Bachelet as the country’s most well-liked politician, with 63 percent approval and only 12 percent disapproval.

President Michelle Bachelet
President Michelle Bachelet. (Flickr)

However, when citizens were asked to rate how well the government is being managed, they responded with only 50 percent approval, compared with 29 percent disapproval. This notable disparity suggests the president’s personality may be holding sway, but her proposals are losing support.

Why the disparity? What makes Bachelet so “loved by the people,” despite her continual policy mistakes?

Simply put, whatever she may say, whatever she may do — even if often negligent towards the real problems Chileans face on a daily basis — she is seen as the “mother who protects us all.” She remains protected under the ambiguity that such an affirmation brings.

Without a doubt, the average Chilean identifies with her personality and her story. Her geniality is seductive and constitutes her main political capital. We “like” her because she represents the caring mother, and mothers are loved for all their virtues and their faults. Who doesn’t believe that his own mother is the best, prettiest mother in the world?

The next best-rated politician after the president is former Finance Minister Andrés Velasco, with 46 percent approval. This is an interesting phenomenon, considering that, like the more business-oriented Manuel José Ossandón, Velasco is gaining support from beyond his base.

Evaluation of political figures: 1,442 people were interviewed in Chile between July 4 and August 1, 2014.
Evaluation of political figures: 1,442 people were interviewed in Chile between July 4 and August 1, 2014. (CEP)

With the third highest approval rating in the latest CEP poll, Isabel Allende, daughter of the late former President Salvador Allende, has come bursting onto the scene. Allende currently sits as the Senate’s president, and has a 45 percent approval rating.

On the other hand, in a surprise development, world-famous former student leader and current deputy of the Communist Party Camila Vallejos has the highest rate of disapproval, at 44 percent. No longer on the outside, she has seen an important drop in the degree of appreciation she is enjoying.

Meanwhile, what is happening on the opposition side of the aisle?

Former President Sebastian Piñera retains the lead in the polls with 38 percent support and 27 percent disapproval. His term is regarded positively by 37 percent of people, while 35 percent regard it negatively. However, it should not be forgotten that the ex-president’s ambitions, despite recently handing over the reins, have been permanently exposed. His closest followers are working hard to build a strong campaign for him to return to power in 2018.

The elected senator for East Santiago, Manuel José Ossandón, also enjoys higher than expected popularity. He arrived in Parliament after a successful term as Mayor of Puente Alto, one of the most popular municipalities of Greater Santiago. He did so while being very critical of Piñera’s government, which gained him skeptics in certain sectors inside the Alliance, but many adherents outside it.

Of those in the more conservative opposition, Ossandón has the highest level of support. His 38 percent approval is equal to that of Piñera, but at 19 percent, his lower rate of disapproval nudges him ahead. Keep in mind that while 60 percent of constituents voted for Bachelet at the presidential level, he still managed to get elected on account of crossover voters.

Andrés Allamand, a former primary candidate for president, lags far behind; and the former candidate Evelyn Matthei does not even figure on the list.

It is only six months into the new presidential term, and some would say it is too early, but the next presidential race is underway. Perhaps, in a subtle way, this demonstrates how fleeting the four-year presidential mandate can be.

This time around, though, it already feels as if it has been too long. The New Majority seems to have been governing for a while, and their electoral platform would do best to wear off without further impact, while the opposition have yet to make their presence known.

Translated by Pablo Schollaert.

Ángel Soto Ángel Soto

Ángel Soto is an historian and political scientist. He is a member of the Mont Pelerin Society and a professor at the University of the Andes, Chile. Follow @angelsotochile.