Santiago — When Gabriel Boric won the Chilean presidential elections last December, he admitted that he would have to reach a broad consensus to achieve progress in his government, which begins on March 11 and runs until 2026.
Months prior to his victory, within the center-left, the Christian Democratic Party (DC) had pledged to support his candidacy, but warned it would be in opposition in the event that he reached La Moneda, the official residence.
Boric triumphed with the largest number of votes ever attained by a presidential candidate since democracy was reestablished in Chile in 1990, strengthened by his coalition Apruebo Dignidad (formed by the Frente Amplio and the Communist Party) and new allies who joined him in the second round to prevent his right-wing rival José Antonio Kast from defeating him at the ballot box in December.
The discourse of the DC, part of the alliance that governed following the 1973-1990 military dictatorship, softened and, although it has not formed part of Boric’s cabinet, it has not insisted on being part of the opposition to President Sebastián Piñera’s successor.
“Boric will have all kinds of opposition,” says Hans Stange, a professor at the Institute of Communication and Image of the University of Chile.
The leitmotiv would be that the next president, aged 36, represents the transition to a new social and political model.
For decades, Chile has been governed by traditional center-placed parties, but now profound changes are being discussed that could even change the economic model, hand-in-hand with the Constitutional Convention, which is drawing up a new constitution to replace the one that dates from the dictatorship era.
“Boric will have to face different fronts for different reasons. It will not be like the typical opposition of parties only”, Stange adds.
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The most notorious opponents will be the right-wing parties, but after losing power in the 2021 they have showed fissures. “They are in disarray because, on the one hand, they are frightened by what is happening in the Constitutional Convention, they are tremendously affected by the social outburst and the economic crisis and, therefore, I believe they will not behave in a unified way. That may be the great novelty, the great difference”, he says.
It will be possible that they will not act as a “bloc”, because there are “multiple right-wing factions” in the country, Stange explains. One of those factions would be expected to behave within the channels of the “political-legislative game”, or in a more conventional way, and will probably be represented by more moderate parties.
In contrast, Stange believes they will be inclined to “overestimate” the scope of the social changes being made in Chile. “That right wing can oppose Boric in the street, in the media. It is a hardline right-wing that will react very emotionally and very irrationally to the presence of the Communist Party in the government”, he adds.
In addition to the traditional right wing, other sectors are also seen as adversaries of the leftist former deputy who takes office this Friday, March 11, as Chile’s president.
Senate: Opposition; Convention: Wait and See
Political analyst Kenneth Bunker, executive director of Tresquintos, a platform for political and electoral analysis, sees the role of the Senate as important, because the right wing has 50% of the seats in that chamber (25 out of 50).
“I believe that this will be the veto point for Boric’s projects going forward,” Bunker said.
Sectors of the center-left can also be a soft opposition, since they may have influential figures in Congress and could be a point of resistance to some of the executive branch’s projects. Ximena Rincón, president of the Senate and a member of DC, said earlier this month that she was willing to vote against the new Constitution in the event that the text remains as it is now, particularly because of the proposal to replace the Upper House with a Territorial Council.
Stange projects that another evident and notorious point of conflict for the new government will be the Convention, since “it is the sum of all the fears of the right wing”.
Not only is it writing the fundamental charter that would replace the one in force since the 1980′s, but it would also be perceived by the right wing as having a re-foundational spirit. However, in spite of the fact that radical initiatives were approved in commissions, most of them have been rejected in plenary votes.
Boric has committed himself to completing the process of drafting the new Constitution. However, within the Convention there may be pockets of resistance to the government from constituents who belonged to the former so-called People’s List, or from the social movements who could possibly be dissatisfied with the shift to the center by Boric, a former student leader, after the first round of the presidential election.
Boric’s relationship with such groups will depend on the ties they forge with the government.
The Left That Could Also Be a Stone in Boric’s Shoe
But the greatest resistance to Boric’s policies could come from the public agenda issues, and which any political administration faces, but which in the context of the crisis could be significant.
Crime, violence in the south of Chile, the migratory crisis in the north of the country and the economic slowdown are some of the problems that would plague Boric in his first year of government. Any measure that does not meet the expectations of him may generate social discontent.
“Socially, but not politically, the middle and lower classes could become a headache for his government, which constitute an important part of those who came out to demonstrate in the social unrest of 2019,″ Stange says.
Beyond the Frente Amplio (FA), or Broad Front, the leftist bloc led by Boric, there are other groups that could be critical of the next administration. The Communist Party stands out, although it does not have a large legislative representation, and has few positions of power within the cabinet, and which usually expresses itself through social movements, while some of the party’s members have already expressed disagreements with the incoming head of state.
Translated from the Spanish by Adam Critchley