False representation of the right and the Concertación
On Sunday 26 October local elections were held in Chile. For the first time since the military dictatorship the Pinochet right-wing overtook the centre-right governing coalition, Concertación, in Mayoral elections. The Concertación has been in power since the supposed democratic transition took place in on 11 March 1990. In other words, since the formal end of the Pinochet dictatorship.
The right-wing took 40.56% of the vote in the Mayoral elections and the Concertación 34.46%. This allowed the right-wing to elect 38 more Mayors across the country than it did in last elections in 2004. The Concertación this time lost 57 Mayors compared to 2004.
However, in the council elections which took place at the same time, the Concertación maintained its electoral majority winning 44.43% compared to the right which only won 35.99%. The importance of this vote is that it gives a clearer picture, revealing that the Concertación still has a majority over the right-wing. This is reflected in the fact that in the council elections the right-wing actually lost votes compared to 2004. Its percentage of the vote fell from 37.68% to 35.99%.
What this reflects is that the terrible policies implemented by the Concertación have led to a lot of discontent. Yet at the same time, people do not see an alternative to the governing alliance. Faced with this situation, some of them ended up giving a vote to the right-wing Mayors. This is not because of enthusiasm for the right-wing. When it has been in government in local councils, it has implemented equally bad policies and been rocked by some of the worst corruption scandals.
At the same time, the left-alliance of the Communist Party and the Humanist party also failed to present a clear alternative and as a result, its vote fell to 9% from 10%, which it won at the previous elections.
Yet these election figures fail to show what is really taking place in society. Given that those that vote are overwhelmingly older people and not the most dynamic combative sections of the population – those that could really carry through the necessary changes needed in society.
What lies behind these figures?
When the election had finished, all the parties proclaimed themselves to be the victors, despite the fact that the two main blocks have only a very limited real representative base in society.
We should remember that of the 11.5 million potential voters, only 8 million actually voted – in other words only two thirds of those entitled to vote. One third of the population decline to participate in the farce and do not even register to vote. This one third is overwhelmingly made up of people between 18 and 30 years of age.
It is simply a lie, as they know, to claim as the right-wing and the Concertación do, that they have the support of nearly 50% of the population. At most they can claim that this 50% represents the two-thirds universe. Moreover, excluded from these figures are the blank and spoilt ballot papers which represent 10% of the ballots cast.
What is clear is that these electoral results represent the votes of older people, which have not really changed since the plebiscite – Yes/No – on the question of Pinochet’s constitution. 70% of those who voted were already aligned to one or other of the two electoral blocks.
‘Democracy’ is less representative with each election.
The right-wing and the Concertación do not want to modify the electoral system. Both party blocks are very happy with the current situation and with a “democracy” that a long time ago ceased to be really representative. The declarations of the political elite in support of a change to the electoral system are pure hypocrisy, given that the electoral system assures them power and both the right-wing and the Concertación want to maintain it if they can.
The next Chilean president will be elected by approximately 33% of Chileans with the right to vote. The electoral system will mean that Deputies and Senators will be elected by an even smaller percentage of people entitled to vote.
These elected intitutions do not represent in any way the 3.5 million young people who do not even register to vote, but who are entitled to do so. Even less so do they represent the youth in the secondary school who in their millions mobilized in the “revolt of the penguins”, against the neo-liberal policies of the government two years ago.
The ‘left’ Juntos Podemos and the pact by omission with the Concertación
The leadership of the Communist Party is apparently quite comfortable with the situation as it is and with the 5% of the vote that it obtained. This allows it to negotiate to win minor positions of power within the system. Its objective is to become an accepted part of the existing system. This “pact by omission” is part of the agreements which it has made with the main blocks and was one of the life belts thrown to the Concertación by the leadership of the CP and Juntos Podemos – an alliance of the CP, Humanist Party and other smaller left-wing groups. They did this just at the time the Concertación was meeting with growing opposition and falling in support, when it was more necessary than ever to present a clear alternative to the governing coalition rather than being just an appendage to it. In the election campaign they present themselves as being fundamentally different from the governing alliance. If you look at the leaflets of the CP and Juntos Podemos distributed during the campaign however, there is hardly anything in them which the Concertación or the right-wing could not support.
The tasks of the revolutionary left
Those who consider themselves as on the left, or revolutionaries, need to raise the issue of the need to organize and mobilize the youth who are opposed to the electoral system and the type of campaigns that are run. These campaigns are not attractive to the youth and they don’t see them as offering anything to assist them in their struggles. With the existing system, it is clear that the youth have illusions, and taking into account the fact that the electoral system is a total fraud.
Workers’, the poor and youth need to organize and struggle.
Given the absence of any real representative democracy, it is an illusion to think that the changes needed in the lives of workers, the poor and youth can be achieved simply through electoral avenues.
Today it is more necessary than ever that we are organized and mobilize for our basic rights. The right to a decent house, medical advice and clinics, free, quality, public education and the right to a decent job with a monthly minimum wage of 250,000 peso. Such demands can only won through determined struggle. We can expect nothing from the right-wing or the Concertación, who only defend the interests of the rich and the employers.
We need to build a new workers’ party
Unfortunately today, Chilean workers and youth do not have a party which represents our interests and that struggles clearly against capitalism, fighting to build a just society based on solidarity and social justice – a democratic socialist society. The task following these elections is fight to build such an alternative party.