Thursday, 24 December 2009

MEO in el Mostrador

This came out a few days ago in El Mostrador, but in the pre-holiday rush I did not have time to link to it. So here it is.

The basic point is that the Concertación seems to have lost its way, not in terms of policy -- because I think it continue to be reasonably good at managing Chile -- but in political terms. There is no real leadership, no real ideology, no narrative, no epic.

The campaign line now is essentially, vote for us so that the other guy doesn't get in. That almost never works.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Post electoral thoughts

Now that the dust has settled a little, a few thoughts on Sunday's election.

The fact that Carlos Huneeus got it reasonably right means that the Concertacion knew what to expect on Sunday. It is therefore unforgivable that they did not have a strategy in place to hit the ground running on Monday morning. A strategy that involved a serious shift in gears, in campaign organization, in message, in its relation with the political parties. It is inconceivable that the leaders of those parties, especially Camilo Escalona, who is directly responsible for the MEO candidacy, are not willing to resign. And to top it off, Latorre, head of the Christian Democrats, now says the campaign had nothing to do with the parties or their leaders.

Frei should have had the four party presidents' resignation letters on his desk on Sunday night. It should have been set up. He should have had a whole team ready to replace the old one. He should have had a lineup of young Concertación leaders standing behind him for his concession speech, not Camilo Escalona.

The Concertación had 24 hours to show it had got the message (what Lagos said after his first round tribulations in 1999), and to signal a shift. Those 24 hours are up.

Instead of being on top of the ball, what Frei has shown is that he cannot control the parties, which says something about his leadership. The parties have no interest in anything but themselves. The Concertacion has officially lost its way. It will lose on January 17, and deserves to. And then it will fall apart.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Election Special: Liveblogging IX

Two tough losses for the UDI. Joaquin Lavín, and Rodrigo Álvarez. The former is a former presidential candidate. The latter has been president of the House of Deputies, and a very smart and good guy. A good candidate for a possible Piñera cabinet.

Election Special: Liveblogging VIII

The Santiago suburb of Las Condes has been a right-wing hub for ages. It is where Joaquin Lavin made his career.

This time round, however, the Alianza was worried of losing its 'doblaje', which under the binominal system would give it two seats in the House of Deputies. The source of this concern was the candidacy of Rodrigo Garcia Pinochet -- yes, that Pinochet. His grandson, in fact, who ran as an independent.

In the end, RGP got about 10% of the vote, but even then could not put a dent in the Alianza's fortress. It held on to its doblaje, electing Ernest Silva and Cristian Monckeberg.

Even a former police general, running for the Concertacion, couldn't inspire the wealthy citizens of Las Condes to move away from the Alianza.

Election Special: Liveblogging VII

Now it's Piñera's turn. He's not saying much. He doesn't have to.

Election Special: Liveblogging VI

Frei is speaking. He started off by reaching out to Arrate and MEO.

Ominami is also speaking. He is not endorsing anyone, and continues to criticise Frei. That's not smart of him, and not good for Frei. It will make everyone's job harder.

MEO has to decide now where he wants to go. His problem is that if Frei wins, the Concertacion will be out to get him. If Frei loses, he stands a chance of becoming an important player in the reconstruction of the Concertacion. Frei therefore has to give him an incentive to get on board.

Election Special: Live Blogging V

The Ministry of the Interior has published the latest vote count:

Piñera: 44.2%
Frei: 30.5%
MEO: 19.4%
Arrate: 5.9%

This looks increasingly insurmountable for Frei. He would have to win all of Arrate and three quarters of MEO voters. Very tough.

In the parliamentary vote, the Concertación has a higher percentage vote than the Alianza, but thanks to the binominal electoral system, they will be about 50-50. Some major Concertación figures in the House of Deputies have been defeated. Not a good night for the Concertación.

And I congratulate my friend Ena von Baer, who has been elected as an independent UDI-friendly senator in the 15th district.

Election Special: Liveblogging IV

First official results from the Ministry of the Interior

Piñera 44.7%
Frei 32%
MEO 17.8%
Arrate 5.5%

It's only based on about 10% of the total vote, but if this keeps up, Piñera is in very good shape. Frei is also in pretty good shape, better than even he probably expected. MEO seems to be underperforming, and Arrate is within historic ranges, but lower than I thought he would be.

Early in the evening, but it looks like Frei will have his work cut out for him

Election Special: Liveblogging III

CNN Chile / Radio Bio Bio are suggesting the tendency is thus:
Piñera 43.9%
Frei 31.5%
MEO and Arrate 24.5%

UDP is projecting
Piñera 43.3%
Frei 26.9%
MEO 22.6%
Arrate 7.1%

Election Special: Liveblogging II

In Chile polls close if everyone has voted, so some polls around the country have started counting. Which is pretty odd, if you think about it, becuase they show the count on TV, which could influence others who have not yet voted.

Having said that, TVN is showing the count at a poll in Concepción. Piñera is in first place, which is no surprise. But it's a tough slog for the number 2 position.

It's only one poll, but still. Some people are going to have a loooong night.

Election Special: Liveblogging I

I have voted. Won't say for whom.

Some further observations on Election Day:

Over the last few years I have voted several times at the same polling station in Santiago, and this was the first time I had to wait in line. Draw whatever conclusions you wish.

José Miguel Izquierdo is a friend and colleague. He exemplifies the word mensch. But he is appearing on television as a 'cientista político', offering his 'analysis' of the electoral situation, which is rather disingenuous when he is a close advisor of Sebastián Piñera. That aside, he is talking about a National Unity government. What is that about? It's about the fight for the the middle, the undecided, the median voter.

The struggle to win over MEO's votes has begun.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Putting my money where my mouth is

I suppose I should make a prediction for tomorrow's election. Here goes.

Piñera: 41%
Frei: 30%
Enríquez-Ominami: 17%
Arrate: 10%

This is based entirely on gut feeling, conversations with colleagues and people involved in the campaigns. The margin of error is 2%, only because I say so.

Note that this leaves Piñera very far away -- almost impossibly far away -- from the finish line. Draw your own conclusions.

It also leaves Frei with a difference of over 10% with Piñera, which Conventional Wisdom has suggested is the kiss of death, an impossible breach. Let's see.


Well folks, it's the final countdown. Polls open in a few hours. Since it is highly likely that Piñera will come in first, I jotted down some thoughts on what guarantees of governability a Piñera government could offer. It was published in El Mostrador.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Ethics, coming from Perez de Arce

This is what one of Chile's most right-wing commentators, who used to be a columnist in El Mercurio, has to say about Sebastián Piñera.

Ejemplifiquemos con hecho recientes. Todo el tema que se ha debatido con esta compra de Lan que hizo menos de media hora después que conoció los estados financieros de Lan. Es una falta de ética, es una falta de delicadeza y entonces a mí no me gusta que el futuro Presidente de la República incurra en faltas de esa índole, porque el ejercicio del cargo puede prestarse a eso y mucho más. Cuando yo era compañero de lista de él, Sebastián Piñera tenía lo que se llama un topo en mi comando presidencial. Y digo que si una persona hace uso de esos elementos y es Presidente de la República, podría poner topos en partes muy inconvenientes. Y no me gustaría que el Presidente de la República, con todo el poder que tiene, tuviera esa capacidad de penetrar organizaciones.

For the record, the two go way back, and not in a good way, so it has been clear for a while that Perez de Arce would not support Piñera. But the way he sees Piñera's business practices, and general MO, from up close, seems to fit with the popular view.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Smell the Chilean roses

Homer Simpson likes to say, "It's funny because it's true".

Well, this isn't exactly funny, but it is rather nice, and it's also true. For those of you who know Chile:

Smell the roses… and everything else around you; smells that delight, that repulse, that intrigue, that confuse, that alarm, that soothe; smells that say home and smells that
spell trouble; smells known and unknown, smells that will become familiar as
this strange place becomes yours. The señora next door is frying onions at 9:00
am as she starts preparing a lunch (why so early if they eat at 2, you wonder);
warm yeasty smells waft from the bakery as people line up for hot rolls and
empanadas; the Nuts for Nuts guy stirs his peanuts into the hot and sugary red
syrup to make his maní confitado; a motorbike whizzes by leaving a
trail of gas fumes in his wake; roast coffee aromas waft from the Café Haití;
waves of stale smoke and beer are swept out of a bar before noon, an unwashed
hand is extended in front of the church; heavily perfumed men, women, and even
children leave their scent in an empty hallway, on a vacant telephone, in the
taxi they have just stepped out of; close your eyes and breathe deep—the market
is filled with the juiciest of fruits and the freshest of vegetables, the metallic scent of recently butchered meat and the coastal smell of the daily catch. The city is teeming with smells-odors-fragrances-aromas-bouquets-stinks and scents that together spell out Santiago, or Valparaíso, or La Serena, or Santa Cruz, the Andes, the Pacific, Atacama, Patagonia… smells that burn “Chile” into your olfactory memory.

More can be found here.


Well that didn't take long

When I heard that six people have been charged in the death/murder of former president Eduardo Frei, my first reaction was not 'Good, they got the bastards', or 'Good heavens, it really was murder'. My first reaction was to wonder how long it would take for the opposition to accuse the government of somehow orchestrating the legal proceedings for electoral benefit.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Questions for Piñera (and Frei)

Andrew Sullivan has posted his reasons for leaving the Right (or, as he phrases it, why the Right has left him) (Kudos to Pablo Policzer).

The list includes a number of issues that should be asked of presidential candidates everywhere, but particularly the Right, because the Right professes to adhere to these things but then ignores them. These include things like limited government and fiscal restraint. But as Sullivan implies, for the current American Right limited government does not include matters of the bedroom (as Pierre Trudeau would have put it) or torture.

So it would be interesting to ask Chilean presidential candidates, and especially Sebastián Piñera (and it would be really interesting to ask someone like Pablo Longuiera, who may well be minister of something) whether torture is ever justified; whether evolution is just a theory among many, including Creationism; whether they favour a progressive tax system; what role faith should have in government.

If only we would have had a decent televised debate. If only we had decent journalists.