CHILE 17. A polarized and surprising electoral contest: Piñera and Guillier will face each other in the ballot

As we already anticipated in the Digital Political Barometer, the conversation in social networks could anticipate many of the results, and it did not disappoint. With a sample of more than 350 thousand mentions, José Antonio Kast had the third majority in intention to vote, which reflects an increase over what marked in the emblematic polls. Effectively, the right-wing candidate came fourth in the overall result, drawing from the equation the surprise given by Beatriz Sánchez and her high percentage in third place.


Michelle Bachelet, after her first government, took over as deputy general secretary of the United Nations, with the objective of taking over the executive management of the newly created UN Women. Despite living in the United States, the former president always remained one of the political figures best evaluated by the public. Reason why, after the end of the term of Sebastian Piñera (first right-wing government after the return to democracy), he returned to the country in March 2013 to become a candidate again for the presidency.

She was elected in primaries as a candidate of the political coalition of La Nueva Mayoria   (La Nueva Mayoría), formed by Concertacion and other parties of the left, obtaining a large majority of the votes in the presidential elections of 2013 and being reelected for a second term, which initiated on March 11, 2014.

If she had known all the inconveniences that she was going to face during her second period as president of Chile, it is quite likely that Michelle Bachelet would not have decided to accept the challenge. The various conflicts he has had to deal with, such as the Caval case, the departure of two of her key ministers such as those of the Interior (Rodrigo Peñailillo and Jorge Burgos), added to that of Alberto Arenas, her first finance minister (promoter of the Tax Reform in Chile) and the second in the same portfolio Rodrigo Valdés (driver of the Pension Reform), added to Chile’s constant natural disasters (fires, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions), among others, have made of her mandate an almost impossible mission.

She was beaten by citizen’s approval, in fact, in the last survey of the Center for Public Studies (CEP) of September-October 2017; the president had a 23 percent approval, having to deal with many concerns throughout her government, those that started from the beginning.

Today, months from the end of her term, Bachelet faces the end of a period of rule that was not without controversy and whose main result is the possibility of returning the government to the right wing with Sebastian Piñera as Chile’s candidate for Vamos party.

Will it be the end of La Nueva Mayoria, as a political conglomerate that has historically ruled the country? What were the reasons for the party’s decline in popularity among citizens? Family, internal and political conflicts made this second government, despite the controversial legacy of its reforms, remembered for the lack of clarity with which it addressed the country and a constant sense of disorder and a lack of progress.

And she has said it openly: she is not interested in returning to La Moneda in the future.

“We will continue working until the last day of government to provide answers and solutions, in every corner of Chile, and respond to the needs of the people, because frankly it is the only true reason why a person like me can be in this position and, just in case, so that no one is afraid, I will not return”.

Fuente: La Tercera (

Primary elections: the preferential position of Sebastian Piñera, the birth of Frente Amplio and the decline of La Nueva Mayoria 

The poor evaluation, made by Chilean society of Bachelet’s second period, is publicly known. The 23 percent support obtained in the latest survey of the Center for Public Studies (CEP) confirms what, for many in La Nueva Mayoria   (a conglomerate that governs along with the president), is difficult to digest: they did not meet the citizens’ expectations.

Under this logic, a large part of the political parties that have a significant representation in the country were reorganized to present proposals that would replace Bachelet for the next elections.

The internal climate in La Nueva Mayoria, with ideological conflicts within the parties that comprise it, finally, interrupted Bachelet’s project, giving a sense of lack of capacity to govern and showing signs of disorder that all political opponents sought to take advantage of.

Primary elections in Chile Vamos: Sebastian Piñera, winner by a large majority

The opposition, represented by Chile Vamos, saw in the former President, Sebastian Piñera, the right person to lead a new project towards La Moneda, after his first term as president, between the period of government of 2010 – 2014. Thus, bringing together the support of the Union Democrata Independiente (UDI), Renovacion Nacional (RN) and Evolucion Politica (Evopoli), to name the most important, and after conducting primary elections in which he was confronted by Manuel Jose Ossandon (senator RN Santiago Oriente) and Felipe Kast (representative of Evopoli and current deputy for Santiago), the entrepreneur was awarded the option of being the candidate of the right wing for the second time (see graph).

Considered a favorite one in the presidential race according to the CEP, with 42.3 percent of support, Piñera and his programmatic team began to design an action plan, which includes 62 proposals and he called it “Tiempos Mejores” (better times).

The document splits its proposals into four central pillars: education and economic growth; health and overcoming poverty; security and modernization of the State, and improvement of the quality of life.

The former president proposes the elimination of the Transantiago (public transport system of the capital), the reduction in the number of deputies and senators, and the possibility of a presidential re-election. In addition, they highlight initiatives in education, economy, security and a review of the current emblematic reforms implemented by Bachelet.

Beatriz Sanchez rose up as the standard-bearer of Frente Amplio

If something was missing for Frente Amplio to establish itself as a new left-wing political alternative in Chile, it was to introduce its own powerful candidate as a presidential candidate. This political coalition made up of parties and movements of the left, liberals and citizens, intends to overcome the dichotomy of the Chilean bipartisanship formed by La Nueva Mayoria   and Chile Vamos.

Its main leaders, Giorgio Jackson (Democratic Revolution) and Gabriel Boric (Autonomist Movement), stood out for being part of the diverse mobilizations for education that faced the government of Bachelet (2006-2010) and Piñera (2010-2014), which it allowed them to establish themselves as the political leaders of the future of the left, being elected as deputies.

Once established as a force, the mission was to recruit someone to unite all the interests of Frente Amplio. It was as well as the journalist Beatriz Sanchez, famous for her strong, feminist style and for having a high level of knowledge regarding citizenship due to her daily appearances on La Clave radio and the TV channel La Red, she was the person chosen to lead the first presidential experience of the conglomerate.

To get there, she had to win in a primary election the political scientist and sociologist Alberto Mayol, from the Nueva Democracia movement (see graphic). After these results, Sanchez obtained good support rates among the citizens (in the last survey CEP of September to October marked 8.5 percent in intention to vote), even going so far as to fight the second place with Alejandro Guillier.

The program of Frente Amplio candidate, called “El Programa de Muchos” (The Program of Many), is based on five pillars: pensions, health, work, education and inclusion, and includes within its most important proposals a trinational agenda with Bolivia and Peru, with the purpose of “advancing the establishment of mutual trust and the restoration of diplomatic relations with Bolivia.

Also, it establishes “a study of expropriation of possibilities, on which a national policy of nationalizations will be created, aimed at companies considered that are considered strategic and of basic services (electricity and drinking water)”. Finally, it proposes to decriminalize and regulate abortion without cause, in addition to a dialogue to enable euthanasia in the country.

Finally, although the forces of Sanchez and her command are set to achieve the largest number of votes possible, the idea that goes through the head of the conglomerate is to add a good number of representatives in the Congress to be able to form a caucus and add more weight in relation to the bills that are discussed in both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.

Alejandro Guillier, the savior of La Nueva Mayoria?

The disorder within La Nueva Mayoria   is such that even though they are the conglomerate that leads the country, its members never agreed to nominate a single candidate to face Sebastian Piñera, even before he decided to run for La Moneda the second time.

The first trying to combine the criteria was the former President, Ricardo Lagos. However, his choice failed to motivate those who lead the center left in Chile, so he made the decision to get out of the presidential race a few months after confirming his willingness to a new term as president.

Under that logic, Alejandro Guillier, an independent senator for the II Region de Antofagasta, won the support of the Socialist, Radical and Por la Democracia (PPD) parties, leaving the Democracia Cristiana (DC) in a bad place, which decided to raise its own candidacy with Carolina Goic as a protest for not having a common government plan.

Guillier, a journalist by profession and with a successful past as a radio and television broadcaster, took advantage of all the public and political capital earned in his years of service in the media and as a senator, to establish himself as the most competitive option in La Nueva Mayoria. He has even attracted the support of Angela Jeria, mother of Michelle Bachelet; something that many believe is a camouflaged support from the president towards him, receiving all the support possible.

The polls ranked him second in the preferences, with 21.4 percent, half of the percentage reached by Piñera in the last CEP, and his main campaign motto is to continue with Bachelet’s legacy.

In relation to his proposals, Guillier emphasizes social protection and rights; it also focuses on primary health care and its decentralization; while in education, its program focuses on professional technical education and to be able to grant free higher education to 60 percent of young people with fewer resources.

In regards to security, the candidate of La Nueva Mayoria   aims to provide Carabineros (Chilean national police force) with a greater number of uniformed, as well as increase the number of prosecutors. Finally, regarding the economy, it will seek its diversification leaving aside the dependence on raw materials (mainly copper), to focus on the development of infrastructure and productivity.

Eight candidates for the first time in an election

Carolina Goic was proclaimed by the DC, but does not attract support

The decision of the Democracia Cristiana to bring its own candidate had to do with the divergences existing in La Nueva Mayoria, due to the way in which they chose Alejandro Guillier, in addition to not achieving a programmatic convergence with their political partners.

The abovementioned added to the traditional role that the party has in the center-left coalition, in which it increasingly enjoys less power of cohesion and conviction, despite the fact that it has the highest representation in Congress and the largest number of mayors within la Nueva Mayoría.

Despite the enthusiasm that Goic has put in the campaign, voting rates, according to the CEP survey, never gave him hope (only 4.1 percent marks the Democracia Crisitiana far from the 21.4 percent of Alejandro Guillier, his main contender in La Nueva Mayoria).

Her main proposals are to increase the economic growth of the country through investment in infrastructure and stimulation of the productive investment of public companies; the gratuity of preschool education and the Technical Professional Training; and increase the police force, in addition to emphasizing on economic crimes and public trust, among others.

In addition, she has been definite in not giving her support to Sebastian Piñera in a second round: “our political domicile is known: the center-left. We must take care of that understanding”.

Marco Enriquez-Ominami (MEO), is the third one defeated?

As it has been during the last two elections, Marco Enríquez-Ominami, leader of the Partido Progresista (PRO) does not lose the hope of becoming president of Chile, participating for the third time in a contest of this type.

MEO has dealt in recent years with different accusations of corruption, which have led him to be sued by the Council of Defense of the State (CDE) for tax crimes, as fraud to the treasury. The complaint would point to a bill of $ 170,800,000 from the 2013 presidential campaign, for services that were not provided, in addition to having issued ballots without supporting the Soquimich mining company, for services rendered between 2011 and 2013.

Although the option to pass the second round was almost null, Enríquez-Ominami was shown throughout the campaign as the continuator of the work carried out by Bachelet, and his government plan focuses on a society based on basic rights, such as education and health. In relation to the first point, the program offers to follow the line of the educational reform, staying in favor of gradually progressing towards a public education, free and of quality, in addition to ending with the Credit with State Guarantee (CAE).

Meanwhile when it comes to health, he seeks free access for everyone, focusing on expanding its coverage through the construction of greater hospital infrastructure. In terms of security, he opts, like all candidates, to increase the number of carabineros in the streets and the creation of special prisons for people who commit crimes linked to drug trafficking.

Finally, his economic growth plan for the country includes modifying the tax reform and a large public-private investment of US $ 6 billion, and a plebiscite to change the Constitution.

The other candidates

The ballot was completed with Jose Antonio Kast (independent right), Eduardo Artes, of la Union Patriotica de Chile (UPA) and Alejandro Navarro (Country Party), who managed to be in the middle of the conversation due to their participation in the different debates.

Although in the surveys CEP and Cadem, Artes and Navarro never managed to obtain more than 1 percent. They only marked the presence of the extreme left with proposals ranging from an agenda for security and recovery of the rule of law and a frontal fight against crime and drug trafficking.

Meanwhile, Kast held 2.7 percent of the preferences with a focus on a new Constitution and a more sustainable economy and the recovery of natural resources, national industrialization and a re-evaluation of international treaties.


Huge mistake of the surveys 

In this complex panorama, with the participation of eight candidates on the elections, the emblematic surveys (CEP and Cadem) predicted very different results from those obtained on Sunday. This is an event similar to the one that happened in the United States with Donald Trump, when all measurements had Hillary Clinton as the favorite candidate.

The pollsters wrongly estimated the votes of Sebastian Piñera, Beatriz Sanchez and Jose Antonio Kast. This fact was more than once highlighted by Frente Amplio and the Democracia Cristiana. “Voters speak at the polls, not in the surveys,” was the premise.

In its latest survey on October 25, the CEP gave Sebastian Piñera an intention to vote 44.4 percent and Cadem 45 percent (November 3). On the other hand, the CEP gave Guillier 19.7 percent and Cadem 23 percent. Nevertheless, probably the biggest flaw was the projection of votes of Beatriz Sanchez. In regards to the candidate of Frente Amplio, the CEP gave her 8.5 percent of the votes and Cadem a 14 percent.

In the case of Carolina Goic, Marco Enriquez-Ominami, Eduardo Artes and Alejandro Navarro, the polls remained within the margin of error, but they were wrong with Jose Antonio Kast, the third surprise of the day, who was given an average of 4 percent by the pollsters.

Official results

After an intense day, where literally every vote counted, the final results were opposed to the polls, consisting of the following figures:

Sebastian Piñera triumphed with 36.64 percent, seconded by Alejandro Guillier with 22.68 percent. Then Beatriz Sanchez caught the attention with a 20.28 percent and Jose Antonio Kast against all odds came fourth, with almost 8 percent. Additionally, Carolina Goic obtained 5.88 percent and Marco Enriquez-Ominami came in sixth place with 5.71 percent. Eduardo Artes obtained 0.51 percent and Alejandro Navarro 0.36 percent.

The predictable run-off

In this sense the polls were not wrong. It was the two candidates that each of them has put them in competition in the ballot. However, the figures are the ones that will provoke uncertainty during the second round the following 17th of December. It was expected that Piñera achieved a 44 percent and Guillier a figure close to 20 percent, these numbers made room for a possible victory of the candidate of Chile Vamos in the first round. However, the results were others.

This leaves a very open scenario for the second round, since, although Jose Antonio Kast already expressed his support for Sebastian Piñera and the large number of votes would be mobilized towards the candidate of the right, this would not be enough. Why? Because this entails that Guillier will try to attract all the remaining voters, that is, the representative of La Nueva Mayoria has to negotiate with Frente Amplio to capture 20 percent of Beatriz Sanchez, the Democracia Cristiana and MEO.

In this sense, Guillier is going to have to sit and listen to Frente Amplio, which can presume a departure from the voters of the left center of Carolina Goic, who can see in Piñera a more real alternative.

The big winner: Beatriz Sanchez and Frente Amplio

After not reaching 40 percent of the votes, and obtaining 36.6 percent, Sebastian Piñera is obliged to seek an approach with key figures of the break in his sector, such as Jose Antonio Kast and Manuel Jose Ossandon.

Beatriz Sanchez, leaves the FA in an excellent position facing the December 17th ballot, since, Alejandro Guillier does or will have to look to this sector to capture votes, and with the great representation that has the Broad Front, can negotiate and require Guillier to adapt its program to the slogans of the Broad Front: more social justice, AFP end, free education, among other things.

Low voter turnout for Piñera

Frente Amplio (FA) arises from the idea of ​​defeating the existing bipartisanship in Chile since the return to democracy: La Nueva Mayoria and Chile Vamos had been, until now, the two major political coalitions that had led the country. With the figures in hand, we can conclude that Frente Amplio was consolidated. And not only with the high vote of Sanchez, but the FA went from having 3 deputies in Congress to the surprise figure of 20 representatives in the lower house, and not only that, they also added a senator for the Valparaíso region, achieving settling in the Upper House, This implies its consolidation as a new political front with a representation in Congress, where, faced with any reform or decision at the macro level that wants to be made, they will have to look towards this sector.

Piñera must use the “fear factor” to mobilize voters for next December 17, and listen to the background to take charge of the fissure within their sector. His former contenders in the primaries (Manuel Jose Ossandon and Felipe Kast) criticize that the former president’s project lacks renewal and a code of values ​​and ideas, lacks real knowledge of the problems and maintains an elitist view of the country. Both ask for more definition by Piñera, and more land or street, which is something that the former president must evaluate with his command.

Guillier will have to “renew” the policy to attract Beatriz Sanchez’ voters

Alejandro Guillier as a candidate of the ruling party should focus its strategy on achieving the support of Frente Amplio, since without that 20.28 percent it will be very difficult to defeat Sebastian Piñera. Also, not to mention that in numerical terms I would also need the support of the DC.

However, the task is quite complex, because it must achieve “not look bad with anyone”, trying to conquer the left, but taking care not to weaken the support of the center. This is because, statistically, the votes of the center-left exceed the sum of the support received by Piñera and Kast, which would have high chances of winning a ballot. Of course one thing is political gestures and quite another is to capture the electorate of the other candidacies of the center-left.

Uncertain way to the run-off in elections

The theories for the second round are several, and the key questions are: Will Beatriz Sanchez support Alejandro Guiller? Will the Christian Democracy call for a vote for the center-right or center-left? What will happen to the MEO votes?

Effect on the market 

Many wondered on Sunday what would happen in the market with the low result of Piñera and the real possibility that Alejandro Guillier could win in the second round. Well, today the Santiago Stock Exchange fell more than 3 percent in its first operations.

Very high abstention

The abstention was again one of the negative points of the elections, as the increase in the voter registry caused the percentage of abstention to go from 50.7 percent to around 54 percent this year. This means that statistically less than half of the population eligible to vote exercised their right.

In this difficult context, representative democracy has been affected by a crisis in politics and the corruption of power, generating a lack of interest in citizens, and who is indifferent to who governs.

In Chile today, where it seems that the center-left cannot understand who it wants to represent and the right resembles the ideas of social democracy, conservative and traditional politicians still do not understand the country they wish to govern.

The citizen power will be the one that will define the next president of Chile, because they understand that times change and politicians, if they want to be successful, must combine their way of acting with the time they have lived.


Thus, with the beginning of the reform implemented by the Government, among the changes stand out the increase from 120 to 155 deputies and the decrease from 60 to 28 districts where they compete, in order to improve representativeness. In the case of senators, of whom only 23 of the 43 representatives were chosen, they increased from 38 to 50 and a single constituency was established by region.

Congress will be segmented into three poles

The presidential and parliamentary elections completely reconfigure a Congress that has not undergone major modifications during the last 27 years, due to the end of the binomial system and the beginning of an Inclusive Proportional Electoral System.

Under that logic, and with the results in hand, Chile Vamos achieved a total of 73 seats in the Chamber of Deputies (to six of the absolute majority). Meanwhile, Fuerza de la Mayoria got 43 charges, which, if we add the 13 that the Democracia Cristiana achieved, they would make a total of 56 deputies (such as La Nueva Mayoria). Considering Frente Amplio broke with 20 candidates, who achieved a place in the Lower House.

There are floating in space, a quota, won by the Progressive Party (PRO) of Marco Enríquez-Ominami, four regionalist deputies and one independent.


Nestor Leal

Nestor Leal

Director of the Digital Area at LLORENTE & CUENCA Chile

Leal is a publicist and has a degree in persuasive communication. In his professional career he has more than 11 years of experience and highlights his work as an interactive and digital director in renowned international and local agencies such as BBDO Chile, Promoplan and iCrossing Latam. He was responsible for leading the digital strategy for companies such as Mercedes Benz, Sony, Pepsi, Grupo Falabella, among other important brands.

Nicole Sternsdorff

Nicole Sternsdorff

Manager of the Public Affairs Area at LLORENTE & CUENCA Chile

Sternsdorf is a journalist of the Diego Portales University and Minor in Management and Marketing of the same university. She has 9 years of experience in the areas of Corporate Communication, Crisis Management and Public Affairs, with clients in the following industries: laboratories, food, insurance, technology, energy, construction and banking, among others. She served as Communications Director of the Pablo Neruda Foundation and prior to joining LLORENTE & CUENCA she worked in two communication agencies.

Juan Ignacio de la Carrera

Juan Ignacio de la Carrera

Consultant at LLORENTE & CUENCA Chile

De la Carrera is a journalist and has a Bachelor of Social Communication at the Universidad Diego Portales. More than five years in the business world, with experience in media and communication agencies, where he worked in various fields, such as consumption, automotive, sports and communications, among others, contributing to the positioning of brands in the market.

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