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Chile's presidential candidates address socio-economic challenges and constitution


world news

Chile's presidential candidates address socio-economic challenges and constitution

Voting in some countries is required by law but no longer in Chile. For the first time, people may vote if they want to. Among other changes: in this Sunday’s election to choose a new president, most of the candidates are campaigning for reform of the constitution that was written under the dictator Augusto Pinochet. This comes in a country in which a neo-liberal economic model has made growth glaringly unequal, socially.

Candidates Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei are opposites. Mathei’s father was the top air force general in the junta that ejected democratically elected civilian President Salvador Allende in 1973. Bachelet’s father was tortured and died in prison as a general loyal to Allende.

Michelle Bachelet was president until just four years ago. She’s determined to govern again, with the centre-left in coalition with Chile’s communist party. The 62-year-old is also determined to make taxation fairer, and to overhaul public education, from nursery school to university.

Bachelet said: “This will ensure quality that is free [taxpayer-funded] and not for profit, that is inclusive, on the principle that education is a social right and not a commodity.”

Economist and pianist Evelyn Matthei was labour minister until July; she is the candidate of the Alliance of right-wing Chilean parties affiliated with outgoing President Sebastián Piñera.

Here is a sample of Matthei on the campaign trail: “Our plan looks like the Germany of Merkel; their plan looks like the Germany of the Berlin Wall.”

The 60-year-old doesn’t see the interest in changing the constitution of Pinochet’s time, during which tens of thousands of dissident Chileans were imprisoned, tortured and murdered by the regime.

Matthei proposes continuing with market-oriented neo-liberal policies that favour big companies and which have permitted around six percent growth – though that is now closer to four percent – and kept unemployment nominally low, but which have also brought civil discontent to a boil.

The head of the Federation of Chilean University Students, Andrés Fielbaum, said it’s high time the country raised the conditions of ordinary people: “Four years ago, talking about free education would have been considered crazy; now it’s seen as a necessity. We got very used to the idea that private industry was the most efficient way, that profits were the motor of all human activity, and that the state had to take a secondary role. After years of us mobilising it is understood that there are areas in life where business must be eradicated.”

Student demonstrations throughout Piñera’s term have increasingly moved other groups to protest their deep dissatisfaction in Santiago. Voting will be voluntary, abstention possible, perhaps handing Chile’s next president a weakened mandate.Voting in some countries is required by law but no longer in Chile. For the first time, people may vote if they want to. Among other changes: in this Sunday’s election to choose a new president, most of the candidates are campaigning for reform of the constitution that was written under the dictator Augusto Pinochet. This comes in a country in which a neo-liberal economic model has made growth glaringly unequal, socially.

Candidates Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei are opposites. Mathei’s father was the top air force general in the junta that ejected democratically elected civilian President Salvador Allende in 1973. Bachelet’s father was tortured and died in prison as a general loyal to Allende.

Michelle Bachelet was president until just four years ago. She’s determined to govern again, with the centre-left in coalition with Chile’s communist party. The 62-year-old is also determined to make taxation fairer, and to overhaul public education, from nursery school to university.

Bachelet said: “This will ensure quality that is free and not for profit, that is inclusive, on the principle that education is a social right and not a commodity.”

Economist and pianist Evelyn Matthei was labour minister until July; she is the candidate of the Alliance of right-wing Chilean parties affiliated with outgoing President Sebastián Piñera.

Here is a sample of Matthei on the campaign trail: “Our plan looks like the Germany of Merkel; their plan looks like the Germany of the Berlin Wall.”

The 60-year-old doesn’t see the interest in changing the constitution of Pinochet’s time, during which tens of thousands of dissident Chileans were imprisoned, tortured and murdered by the regime.

Matthei proposes continuing with market-oriented neo-liberal policies that favour big companies and which have permitted around six percent growth – though that is now closer to four percent – and kept unemployment nominally low, but which have also brought civil discontent to a boil.

The head of the Federation of Chilean University Students, Andrés Fielbaum, said it’s high time the country raised the conditions of ordinary people: “Four years ago, talking about free education would have been considered crazy; now it’s seen as a necessity. We got very used to the idea that private industry was the most efficient way, that profits were the motor of all human activity, and that the state had to take a secondary role. After years of us mobilising it is understood that there are areas in life where business must be eradicated.”

Student demonstrations throughout Piñera’s term have increasingly moved other groups to protest their deep dissatisfaction in Santiago. Voting will be voluntary, abstention possible, perhaps handing Chile’s next president a weakened mandate.

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