Chile: No danger of radical political shift
© 2006, IRED.Com, Inc. Simeon Mitropolitski.
Chile may have by January 2006 a president from the Left supported by the communists. There is however no danger of radical political shift in the country. It has already stepped on the road that makes such new partisan adventures very unlikely. What we may expect, in case of Left victory, is to a degree more equal redistribution of the national wealth. This problem will have to be tackled by the Right too in case its candidate becomes a president. An ethnically and religiously homogenous country with strong national identity like Chile passing into the ranks of middle-income nations cannot afford to be associated with such blatant disparities between rich and poor.
Chile is in the midst of presidential election. The first round gave big advance to the candidate of the Left Michelle Bachelet. His opponent on the second round will be the liberal businessman Sebastian Pinera. Combined with the votes from the less important candidates from the Left and the Right, the chances of Bachelet to become next president are higher. The local communists support her, a formula that sounds suspiciously familiar to anyone who has monitored the Chilean political life since 1970.
There are however no dangers of repeating the political turmoil that occurred 30 years ago. In terms of national wealth Chile is approaching the line that makes impossible either Left or Right authoritarian experiments. It’s argued that beyond certain level of incomes democratic political system becomes invulnerable, especially in times of economic expansion. There are, no doubt, strong resentments felt by many victims of Pinochet, but despite or rather because of this painful history there will be hardly anyone in Chile who will try to repeat it.
Chile has almost turned back to the past, but this doesn’t mean it has married the social justice with economic freedom in a way French president Mitterrand did after 1981. Without such beneficial marriage any new Left government will produce nothing but economic and financial confusion. We of course shouldn’t expect from Chilean Left to become a champion of free market and to start exploiting worker like in China or Vietnam. Political culture, economic level of development, and religious beliefs are indeed very different in all these countries. What may be possible in low-income totalitarian system governed by atheists isn’t at all applicable to middle-income democratic society ruled by Christian norms of solidarity and compassion.
It’s however impossible for a country like Chile to become a rich nation and at the same time keep with its system of high interclass disparities. In this sense a Left-oriented government may be very helpful, although the chances of success may decrease if reforms are made for ideological purpose only, just for the sake of redistribution. Social justice works very well if it’s married to economic openness. Despite many gossips, the interclass economic disparities between most advanced nations are not so accentuated. European Union and the United States, despite their differences, are not from different planets in terms of social protection. The dilemma for Chile therefore isn’t whether or not to have better social protection nets, the point is how to finance these programs, and the right answer is by welcoming new investors, not by scaring to death the existing ones.
Chile country profile:
Area: 756,950 sq km
Population: 16.0 million (July 2005 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.97% (2005 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: 76.58 years
Ethnic groups: white and white-Amerindian 95%, Amerindian 3%, other 2%
GDP per capita: purchasing power parity $10,700 (2004 est.)
Distribution of family income (Gini index): 57.1 (2000)
Main trading partners: US, Japan, China, Germany, Argentina.
Internet users: 5.6 million (2004).