Friday, 19 June 2009

They don't get it

The fallout from the CEP poll this week continues.

A few thoughts:

If one compares only the CEP polls, and do not mix in the drip drip of other, usually less reliable, polls, a few interesting things pop out. The last CEP poll was in November, when the Concertación had not fully established who its candidate would be. It is natural that once they did so, Concertación support would coalesce slightly and would attract some more votes from Piñera. This seems to have happened, although I would not overstate the case. Enriquez-Ominami still sucks some support away (although I suspect he does so equally, or maybe even more so, from Piñera).

Another thing that is noteworthy is the degree of optimism that Chileans show in the economy, given that presumably we're in the middle of a crisis and unemployment is on the rise. This could be due to one, or a combination of, three factors. First, that the government has actually done a good job, through its social spending and other policies, of softening the blow of the crisis. Second, that the government's narrative of social proteciton makes people feel protected (even when the data, such as unemployment, show that they actually aren't). Third, as my colleague Patricio Navia has suggested, it could be that after a period of high inflation, what really matters in terms of the public mood (and public support for the president) is that inflation has gone down, and Chileans can return to what they like to do most: shop.

Greg Weeks wonders why Chileans, who generally seem apolitical in terms of their affiliation or support for specific parties, keep supporting the Concertación. My view is that it has a bit to do with the fact that the Concertación has done a decent job. But it has more to do with the inability of the right to propose a viable alternative. After having lost four presidential elections in a row, the right has not asked itself the tough questions. It maintains an ideological commitment to economic policies which, if not deligitimised, are at least not in fashion in the rest of the world. It seems more out of step, not less. And its campaign strategy remains Allamand's desalojo. It argues that democracy means alternation, equating the Concertación 20 years in power with the dictatorship.

They don't get that a) it's not the same if people actually vote you in four times in a row, and b) people vote for something, not against it. Again, Navia summs it up best: you don't change supermarkets becuase it's time to do so. You change if the prices or products are better, or if it's location is more convenient. So far, the Alianza has failed to make the case that it offers a better deal. They are right that the lack of alternation is bad for Chilean demoracy. But its their own fault.

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