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Cablegate: Mixed Results in Chile's Municipal Elections

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DE RUEHSG #0964/01 3012052
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 272052Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3885
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SANTIAGO 000964

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL CI
SUBJECT: MIXED RESULTS IN CHILE'S MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS

REF: A. SANTIAGO 954
B. SANTIAGO 950
C. SANTIAGO 581

1. Summary: On Sunday October 26, voters across Chile headed to
the polls to elect mayors and city council members. This election -
widely viewed as a referendum on the national political mood -
delivered mixed results. The conservative Alianza coalition won a
majority of mayoral votes for the first time since 1990 while the
Concertacion coalition maintained its hold on the majority of city
council seats. End summary.

Mayoral Race: Big Win for Alianza
--------------------------------

2. Opposition coalition Alianza has reason to celebrate after
winning the majority of mayoral votes, the first time since the
return of democracy in 1990 that it defeated Concertacion in any
nationwide election. Alianza earned 40 percent of the total votes
compared to Concertacion's 38 percent. Alianza's victory can be
credited to the fact that they won mayoral seats in several of the
most populous communes even though the Concertacion actually won
more mayoral seats overall (Alianza: 139 versus Concertacion: 149).
Today, 5.5 million Chileans are governed by an Alianza mayor and 9.6
million by a Concertacion mayor. When the recently elected mayors
take office in December those numbers will shift to 7.9 million for
Alianza and 7.4 million for Concertacion. Alianza has also
increased its presence in several of the communes of the
Metropolitan Region and in regional capitals. Most notably, in the
commune of Santiago, Democratic Union Party (UDI) candidate Pablo
Zalaquett handily defeated Jaime Ravinet (Christian Democrat) the
former Minister of Housing and Defense and former mayor of Santiago
(Ref A).

Concertacion's Strong Hold on City Council
-----------------------------------------

3. Concertacion strengthened its hold on city council votes
throughout the country gaining 45 percent of the votes while Alianza
managed 36 percent. Despite predictions from both sides that the
gap would narrow by as much as fifty percent, Concertacion largely
maintained its spread over Alianza, decreasing from 10 percent to
9(Ref B). Analysts suggest that the vote spread in city council
seats is a more important indicator of party strength than that in
mayoral races because voters are less familiar with city council
candidates and so are more likely to vote based on party
affiliation.

4. In terms of individual party performance the National Renewal
Party (RN) comes out as the leader. Although the party gained only
one point more than in the 2004 elections, the drop in votes for
other parties, most notably the Christian Democratic Party (DC) and
Democratic Union Party (UDI), left RN on top with 18 percent of city
council votes. DC President Soledad Alvear blamed the defeat on the
existence of independent candidates and the Concertacion's decision
to run two lists for city council members (Ref C), which she claimed
confused voters. (Comment: Alvear's analysis may be sour grapes. A
majority of commentators believe the split lists actually helped
Concertacion. End comment.) The Socialist Party (PS), Radical
Social Democrat Party (PRSD), and Communist Party (PC) were able to
slightly increase their percentage of city council votes compared to
the 2004 elections, while the Party for Democracy (PPD) maintained
about the same as in 2004. In its electoral debut, the Independent
Regionalist Party (PRI) led by former DC senator Adolfo Zaldivar
earned 7.5 percent of the vote.

Implications for Presidential Elections
---------------------------------------

5. RN's overall triumph leaves Sebastian Pinera in a position to
negotiate the possibility of being chosen as the Alianza coalition's
sole candidate for President. However, the UDI's role in retaining
seats in emblematic communes and winning new mayoral seats may
convince the party to propose its own presidential candidate. The
results bode ill for Alvear. Considered by the media to be the face
of DC's failure, Alvear will have a difficult time justifying her
presidential candidacy. Without much time to recover from the
municipal elections disaster, she'll have to face Eduardo Frei in
the internal DC primary scheduled for December 14.

President Bachelet's Words of Wisdom
------------------------------------
6. On Sunday evening, once the mixed results for the Concertacion
were revealed, President Bachelet took the podium at La Moneda
palace. She encouraged the Concertacion to be self-critical and
highlighted the need for unity, alluding to the two lists. Bachelet
called for "renewal, to listen to the word on the streets, to hear
the message and inject a new dynamism into its political activity".


Comment

SANTIAGO 00000964 002 OF 002


-------

7. The mixed results of the municipal elections leave few clear
winners and only one obvious loser - Soledad Alvear. In the coming
days and weeks, both political alliances will try to spin the
results to their own advantage while internally attempting to read
the murky tea leaves. Post will provide further, more in depth
analysis over the coming days. End comment.

SIMONS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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