Voting is underway in Chile in the presidential runoff. As the IHT notes, Chile is formally and legally perhaps the most religious and conservative country in Latin America, and yet today it is likely to elect as president an unmarried mother who is a socialist and agnostic, Michelle Bachelet:
Bachelet, 54, a pediatrician who has not held an elective office but who has been minister of health and defense, is the daughter of a general who died in prison after the overthrow of Salvador Allende in 1973. She has had three children by two men, one of whom she never married, and lived with another who had links to a guerrilla group, according to recent biographies. She is not married and is often described as a single mother. She identifies herself as agnostic.
She would be Chile’s first woman president, but the second consecutive Socialist and fourth consecutive post-dictatorship president from the ConcertaciÃ³n, which is an alliance of the Christian Democratic party and various smaller center-left parties, in addition to the Socialists.
Her opponent, Sebastian PiÃ±era, of the right-wing alliance that has had trouble shedding its association with the dictatorship, is fond of invoking the name of God in his campaign. But he faces a fundamental problem, as his attempts to paint the years of ConcertaciÃ³n governance as a period of squandered opportunities has fallen flat:
Chile has enjoyed not only the highest economic growth rates in South America but also a political stability that is the envy of its neighbors.
So part way through the campaign he did what all trailing candidates do when their ideas don’t sell: Get personal.
PiÃ±era’s campaign shifted gears to emphasize that he is a take-charge, can-do, self-made man.
PiÃ±era also sought to differentiate himself on family issues from Bachelet, whose choices have sometimes strayed from Chile’s enshrined traditions. Divorce did not exist here until little over a year ago. Men and women still vote at separate polling stations.
There were attempts to portray Bachelet as a dangerous social radical who secretly favored abortion and gay marriage, both of which are illegal here, though she pledged not to push for changes on either issue. One mayor who belongs to PiÃ±era’s party went so far as to declare that all Christians had a moral obligation to vote for PiÃ±era because Bachelet was “the devil’s daughter.”
It is not likely to work.
Preivous posts on the Chilean elections:
Chileâ€™s presidential runoff Sunday (compares the first-round presidential and congressional voting and notes the weak coattails of the two right-wing candidates, including PiÃ±era)
Chileâ€™s election: Unusual alliance behavior (discusses the most unusual characteristic of this two-round election: that the right-wing alliance presented two presidential candidates but a unified congressional slate)