Thursday, 29 October 2009


Just one last thing about the UDP poll, and then I swear I'll shut up:

I thought it might be instructive to compare the main headlines this morning. Even though the UDP poll got massive coverage on radio and television yesterday, today's headlines are:

El Mercurio: Fiscalía investiga crimen de joven mapuche como ajusticiamiento por indígenas que lo acusaron de ser testigo protegido

La Tercera: Inversiones de empresas peruanas en Chile suman $2.500 millones

La Nación: Encuesta UDP: Piñera pierde en segunda vuelta

I'm just saying.

The time to start renovating is now

I was thinking overnight on the UDP poll and its consecuences. Two more points:

First, is that since there are so few newly registered voters, the profile of registered voters, in terms of their general political orientation stays pretty much the same, that is, pro-Concertación. The only thing that changes is that they are now four years older, which the UDP clearly shows, favours Frei.

However, should Frei actually pull this off in January, renovation is an absolute must. Not only is it politically advisable in theory, but the major change between this election and the next one is that the new electoral law will come into effect, which automatically registers voters while making voting volutary. All those young voters who up to now have been to lazy to register, will at least have the option. Had this happened this year, Frei would have been dead in the water.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Frei's Early Christmas Present: A Tie

My former colleagues at the Universidad Diego Portales have released their annual public opinion poll, which this year has the added bonus of being a kind of pre-CEP, a kind of Golden Globes of the Chilean polling world.

And it's a whopper. Not only does it take the wind out of Marco Enriquez-Ominami's sails, saying that Frei would come in second in December's election, it also gives Frei a slight advantage over Piñera in the second round, 36.3% to 35.5%. This is, of course, within the margin of error.

The really interesting bits of the poll are in the details. They clearly show that among registered voters, Piñera's base of support is to be found, as they say in Chile, 'de Plaza Italia para arriba'. That is, Santiago-centered and middle to upper class. Frei's support, on the other hand, is stronger in the south of the country, and increases as income level drops.

One can read this in different ways. Some will argue that there are more middle to low-income voters than middle to high-income voters, giving Frei his slight advantage. Others will say that higher income voters are more likely to vote, but since in Chile voting is obligatory for registered voters, that seems irrelevant.

What strikes me, though, is how little ground Piñera has gained in all this time. With all the money in the world, with an exhausted Concertación, who has put forward a relatively weak candidate, Piñera is pretty much where he always was, and has the support of those he has always attracted. Even the UDI's extensive field work in popular sectors does not seem to be paying the dividends he might have wished for.

Assuming the poll is correct, and having worked with these people I have every reason to suppose that it is, this this is 40-love advantage Frei. And he has the serve.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


Here's a little something I wrote on the MEO phenomenon -- although day by day, it seems like less of a phenomenon and more like a safety net for the Concertación.


Sunday, 18 October 2009

Bits and Roberts

Thanks Balloon Boy!
Thanks to 'Balloon Boy', the taping of a TVN24 programme on Obama got delayed, which resulted in my getting a call to pinch hit. You can watch the whole thing here, although I don't feel I was at my best, having been called in at the last minute, I did not have any time to prepare. You see the other two with their 'cheat sheets' right in front of them. I was winging it like a chicken from Buffalo.

Livin la Vida Obama
Speaking of Obama, this week PBS showed a Latino Concert that the Prez hosted at the White House. It was strking how laid back the Latinos were, how Justice Sotomayor has become an icon and source of pride for many Latinos in America, and how relaxed both Mr and Mrs Obama were. I could also not help but notice that the Chilean ambassador to the US, José Goñi, was prominently seated next to Sotomayor.

Grow Up

Marco Enríquez-Ominami has certainly shaken things up. In the last couple of weeks, I have spoken to people involved in each of the three major presidential campaigns, and each one is convinced they stand a good chance of winning. What this tells us is that nobody knows what's going to happen. At least not yet. We wait for CEP.

But if MEO wants to take the next step, he really does have to grow up. He will have to devise a strategy which will allow him to go from thing-shaker to possible president. Today, he is a possible president becuase of what he represents, not because of what he stands for. Some will say that's just how Michelle Bachelet won four years ago, but everyone knew that she stood for policy continuity in general.

Today's Mercurio has a list of MEO's weak points. Most, like the fact that he has tried drugs, are probably irrelevant. But two are not, and must be changed.

The first is his closeness to the radical left. If one examines his actualy policy proposals, inasmuch as they exist, he does not have a radical agenda. But it sounds like he thinks it's cool to support Evo and Hugo. Being young, and having lived outside of Chile for much of the dictatorship, he seems to lack the usual hangups about capitalism, etc. But he also lacks a reasonable weariness of those who flaunt democracy in the name of revolution. Perhaps it's a way of feeling close to his father, or perhaps it's little more than romanticism of the Che T-shirt kind, but it's time to leave all that aside, take down the dorm-room posters, and run for president of Chile.

Second, and more damaging, is his relationship with the Concertación. Clearly Arrate has made peace with Frei, although both continue their campaigns. There are no signs, however, that MEO's people are talking to Frei's. MEO has attracted, and will continue to attract, many of the bright, young, and up-and-coming of the Concertación. In fact, he has attracted them precisely because they were not really coming up within the Concertación. But if he wants to win, and if he wants to govern, he will need more than a bunch of 30 year olds with Masters degrees in public policy from some private Chilean university. Bachelet tried that already. Then she brought in the old guard.

It's still a long shot, but just as Eduardo Frei came up through the middle and beat the heavyweights, Enríquez-Ominami just might pull this off. But not if he doesn't grow up.

And for heaven's sake, don't remind everyone that you're a little kid with a slogan like 'Marco crece'!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Nobel Prize for Political Science

Just as Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize for not being George W. Bush, Elinor Ostrom has received the Nobel Prize for Economics for not being an economist. It would, indeed, have been a bit embarrasing to reward any economist after the mess they created in the last few years, except maybe for Krugman, who already got one.

The Nobel people have taken the first step towards something that they should have done some time ago: a Nobel Prize in Political Science.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Time is running out

La Tercera has published a poll in the aftermath of the last presidential debate.

Just like last time the CEP was collecting data for its important poll, La Tercera tries to model public opinion in favour of their desired outcome. The poll is of dubious quality, the strategy is of dubious ethical standards, but it works. And time is running out. With Bachelet's approval rating where they are (78% according to last week's Adimark poll), with the economy on the mend, with the level of public spending where it is, and with an unattractive candidate on the opposition, this was, once again, the Concertación election to lose.

Yet it has mishandled its candidate selection process, mishandled MEO, mishandled its communication strategy, mishandled the debates and the postdebate media cycle. If they keep this up, it's curtains. Time is running out.

Sabatini makes a point

Greg Weeks has been consistent (and consistently entertaining) in his coverage of the crisis in Honduras. Actually, it's probably too late to keep calling it a crisis. It is an ongoing shame on the OAS, Latin America, and the US.

One reason that it's a shame is that much of the debate has centred around the kind of double standards that Chris Sabatini outlines here.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009



Kudos to my alma mater for combining art and academia.

Frei's New Constitution: Not Granola

The polls don't show it, but I still believe the odds are in Frei's favour to win the presidential election, although certainly in the run-off. If that materializes, then we need to have a serious discussion on Frei's serious constitutional proposals.

The MSM in Chile still deals with constitutional issues as some sort of left-wing fetish, akin to granola or Birkenstocks. But as anyone who has studied Chile just a little bit knows, there are some areas that need fixing. For me, the main point is not the electoral system per se, but representation as a whole: for minorities, for aboriginal groups, for anyone who is basically not part of the elite. This is the hardest thing to fix, because elite groups don't give up power easily. In this sense, the Oceanos Azules proposal is pretty remarkable, considering that the people who drew it up are -- let's face it -- pretty much part of the elite themselves.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Why the brouhaha?

If anyone is still wondering why the bigwigs of Chile Transparente reacted so switftly, this week's Qué Pasa offers a pretty convincing clue. As Deep Throat said, follow the money.

Friday, 2 October 2009


I don't know if it is my imagination, by the current presidential campaign seems to be nastier than previous ones. Since the issues are non-existent, whatever debate there is seems to quickly descend into personal attacks. Nothing shows this more clearly than the manufactured outrage surrounding Eduardo Frei's reference to a Transparency International report which names Piñera as a protagonist in some alleged insider trading involving LAN stocks. The media-led frenzy overshadowed any rational analysis of the debate itself, not to mention Piñera's behaviour which led to the accusations. In the long run this is going to frustrate the hell out of the Concertación, and their message will become increasingly desperate and nasty.

But it will be worse on the right. There are already some rumblings from the UDI on Piñera's performance. But are they really complaining about the debate, or is the problem more profound? If you look at Piñera's actual policy statements and positions, inasmuch as they exist, he does not sound all that different from Frei. His promises sound like more of the same, only more so. More jobs created, more police on the streets, more social protection. More, more, more. I guess that's how billionaires become billionaires. They always want more.

For the UDI and others on the right, this is probably insufficient. Where is the social agenda? Where are the rollbacks on social spending? Where is the end to legal troubles for former military officers? Besides a promise of tax cuts (which seems unlikely in a country with a ridicuously low tax burden), these things have not been mentioned becuase they're not there.

So the right is getting frustrated, not because they are afraid Piñera might lose (and well he might), but because they are afraid Piñera might win.

And then watch them get nasty.