The recent elections for mayors and municipal councillors in our country have had interesting results, leaving a diverse array of reflections, inquiries and political projections, both on a local as well as on a national level. In this article, specifically, we are interested in accounting for some of these effects that in our view appear as central when making a preliminary evaluation of the municipal results.
By Claudio Rodriguez
In first place, and in spite of the low profile and the intention of the hegemonic mass media and its analysts to make it invisible, we must point out with clarity that in this electionary process the result was a defeat of the political right wing in our country. The loss of municipalities – and its mayors – of emblematic municipalities, such as Santiago, Providencia or Ñuñoa, as well as an electoral defeat, portrays a punishment of the mayors who carried out criminalizing and stigmatizing strategies, but above all, authoritarian relationships with the student and social movement and community. In this sense, it appears that this should imply a serious reflection on the profile of the candidates and the relationship that they establish with the citizenship and its actors for future elections. Today what must be in the center are the ideas and proposals, as well as the modes to manage these in a participative and binding manner.
In the face of upcoming presidential elections, on the other hand, the opposition equals its strengths with the governing parties. In this sense, the recovery of municipalities that are regional capitals, such as Iquique, Concepcion as well as Santiago, is important. On the other hand, although there is a higher voting, these majorities only adquire clarity in the case of the sum of an opposition that embraces new sectors that are more to the left than the “Concertacion”. This reinforces the thesis that the defeat of the right wing requires the convergence of a broad alliance, which shall reflect a vast social and political majority to face the next presidential process. The recent exit of the ministers Allamand and Golborne from the cabinet does nothing more than to ratify the impact of the defeat in the right, in the understanding that this signals – in a frontal and official way – the unfolding of the campaign of their main pre-candidates. It is probable that a positive result for the government in the municipal elections would not have precipitated the exit of the so called “presidentiable” ministers.
In second place, it seems important to analyze the high abstention rate – of almost 60% – in the electoral participation. In this point, it is necessary to have a perspective that overcomes the binary analysis that by simplifying the explanations, can be threatening to fully give account of the complex current political and electoral scenario. While some give bill to a crisis of lack of representativeness without considering the historical context that expresses itself in the necessity of “improve the offer”, others fall in the temptation that the abstention expresses a firm rejection of the system. In first term, it is necessary to point out that no analyst, nor any previous survey, advanced the level of apathy of the electorate. Nobody repaired on the depth that this could reach. We speak of the reflection of the high level of political and institutional disaffection that is evidenced in this election. This has taken some sectors to affirm that it is an alert for the institutionality, a representation crisis that as a generic analysis we share, although we believe it necessary to give account of its causes and historical anchorage. In this sense, it is necessary to point out that a context overview should make reference to the relationship between the abstention and the process of depoliticization of our so called citizenship and the forgotten communities in the last years. It, we think, is the result of the corporatist conception of the “social thing”, organizations and the role of social leaders that installs itself strongly in the dictatorship period, operating preferably through the municipal “clientelismo” (practice of handing out prebends in exchange of votes). This rupture between the “social thing” and the “political thing” is reinforced and has continuity starting from the pact that seals the period of transition between the political elites. Indeed, in search of the post dictatorial governance a process of social demobilization was installed, necessary for the development of the “politics of the consensus” that accompanied a period of breaking up of the social and community webs. The parties, on the other hand, lost connection with the social base. All of this paved the current scenario of lack of representativeness of the institutions and growing depoliticization of our society.
Others have pointed out that the offers were not attractive, and that the presidential elections will probably bring a bigger commitment on the part of the electorate to exercise their right to vote. When looking at the abstention rate in Providencia, for example, the thesis that polarization could mean more voting loses force. Rather we believe in this sense that the same weakness of the municipal institutionality appears as a stronger argument to understand why people do not vote. It seems that the municipality emerges as a space that is close to, but, that it decides little regarding people’s daily chores. This has relationship with a structure with strong authoritarian aftertastes, as well as with limited resources and faculties for being an institutional space that impacts in the development or the “good living” of the neighbours and their communities. The country requires beginning a refoundational process for our municipalities, with more attributions and that converts it in the first space on the way of repoliticizing our society and reconfiguring social subjects. Today, the community participation, binding and protagonistic, should be the axis of the local governments.
On the other hand, there is a more overideologized view that sees in abstention a sort of rejection of the system. In this sense, it seems important to remark that although it could appear as a rejection of institutionality and its administrators – politicians -, we believe that it does not refer to the existence of a critical political conscience or the development of it. For this reason, we would rather more speak of a crisis of representativeness in a historical context of growing political and institutional disaffection. It could be thought, inclusively, that great part of the supposed rejection, ratherly responds in definitive and for the most part to people that are part of and functional to the system, that have been coopted and/or formed in the pre and post dictatorship neoliberalism. It is the reflection of the contradiction between Democracy and Neoliberalism, expressed in the electoral plane. Due to this, the call is to make use of the vote a possible political manifestation that can, together with other forms of participation and social mobilization, generate changes. If not, let us see what the right wing believes with respect to this, and how today it reads and reacts in light of this recent defeat.
Lastly, we will make reference to the voting inside the opposition conglomerate. The 29% reached by the historical branch of the “Concertación” – Socialist Party and Democristian Party – will probably have consequences on the development of the strategy and work of the opposition in the pre-presidential period that begins. The so called progressive or left wing block achieved a little more than 22% of the voting. This, although it shows us a hardcore vote of the historical branch of the “Concertacion”, and it strengthens those actors within the opposition, not necessarily – like it has been pointed out – gives account for the victory of a political center, given the fact that this is a political space that is in reconfiguration and it is preceded of important social mobilizations and social demands. If there is something that we should clarify is that the level of abstention and the political and institutional disaffection relativizes lineal analysis. Today’s Chile is not the same as the one of two years ago. Certainly, within the social bases and militancy of this historical branch there is great syntony with the demands installed by the social actors; social movements; and territorial movements of the year 2011. This should not call to confusions regarding the necessity of a deep programmatic debate that picks up the demands of the social movement and integrates the same to the construction of it, expressing in that way the importance of marking a clear path for the country, that deepens democracy and faces the social inequality of an excluding and antidemocratic model.