In my series of posts about the Chilean election, I emphasized continuity across the four administrations since Pinochet, rather than the leftward movement that seems to be such a feature of journalistic coverage of Latin America recently.
Posthegemony generally agrees, but suggests that my emphasis on continuity nonetheless might overlook a trend:
the move within the ConcertaciÃ³n from Frei to Lagos to Bachelet is also definitely a leftward drift.
This is an interesting point, but I am not so sure about the claim. Frei to Lagos, of course. The Christian Democrats and Socialists, although in alliance, still compete against each other in presidential primaries (although they did not hold one in 2005) and in congressional races, and obviously the Socialists are to the left of the Christian Democrats.
But I am not so sure about the claim that Lagos–> Bachelet is a further move to the left. I have heard that before, and it seems to be the conventional wisdom. But based on what? Bachelet has no record of her own in politics, never having contested an election before this one. She served in two ministerial posts under Lagos (Health and Defense). It is highly implausible that she built up a “leftist” policy reputation in the Defense ministry (in fact, probably quite the contrary: Defense was probably a critical post for her building the credibility needed to be taken seriously as a future president). I suppose it is possible that she built up some leftist credentials as Health minister–for the simple reason that the Lagos administration increased spending on health. But even if she did, her room for policy maneuver was constrained be her being an appointee of Lagos.
So, the only basis I see for her to be considered to the left of Lagos is her personal reputation, not her policy experience. That is, being the daughter of an Air Force general who had served in Salvador Allende’s cabinet and was later tortured by Pinochet’s forces, and having lived in exile in East Germany give her a leftist profile–but not one of any policy substance.
Perhaps another reason for the perception might be that Lagos had already built up a moderate reputation before becoming president. He was a senator, and thus had a record on policy and legislative politics (though I do not know much of the substance of that record) that Bachelet lacks.
If she is more “left” than her predecessor, it is likely going to be hard to tell. The Socialist party, as Marc Cooper notes, is not much more leftist nowadays than American Democrats, and whatever her personal preferences, she will remain constrained by the ConcertaciÃ³n alliance–which gets us back to my initial “continuity” argument.
But the most significant fact I see in the election of the “leftist” Bachelet is that a full term of the Socialist Lagos proved once and for all just how unideological Chile’s “left” has become.