POLITICS Presidential Elections

The other elections: what happened in the Senate and Lower House?

President wasn’t the only ticket up for election on Sunday. Voters also cast ballots for senators in nine regions, and Lower House members in all regions. Just like the presidential race, these elections had some surprises.

The importance of the Lower House in Chile became clear during Sebastián Piñera’s presidency, when the opposition held a majority in the legislative body. Presidential candidates therefore watched the developments in these elections meticulously, fearing a majority from an opposite force would obstruct possible plans. Indeed, the outcome of the House elections on Sunday were surprising. Both the right and the left did well, while, just like in the presidential elections, the center fell flat.

The biggest newcomer to the House was the conservative Social Christian Front, an alliance of the Christian Conservative Party and the Republican Party of presidential candidate José Antonio Kast, that won 15 seats. Another big surprise, reflecting the success of Franco Parisi in the first round of the presidential race, was the People’s Party, that won six seats.

The rightwing performed well overall, illustrated by the 25 seats won by National Renewal (RN) and the 23 by Independent Democratic Union (UDI). Both parties formed part of the government coalition, and although their results were not bad, they lost compared with 2017, when RN won 36 seats and UDI 30.

The Apruebo Dignidad alliance of presidential candidate Gabriel Boric obtained 37 seats; 12 of those belong to the Communist Party, where, in the previous election, they obtained only eight. More towards the center, some parties lost severely, like the Christian Democrats. Their presidential hopeful Yasna Provoste was a big disappointment, and the House elections didn’t go well either: they fell from 14 to just eight members. The left, from far left to center, has lost its majority in the House.

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Right wins in the Senate

The Chile Podemos Más alliance, that saw its presidential hopeful Sebastián Sichel lose in the presidential race, and a copy of the current Chile Vamos coalition, emerged as the big winner in the Senate, where it obtained 10 extra seats. People voted in only nine regions (Antofagasta, Coquimbo, Metropolitan, O’Higgins, Bío Bío, Ñuble, Los Ríos, Los Lagos, and Magallanes) because Chile’s senators’ eight-year terms are staggered by four years in different regions.

Whereas the Senate had 43 seats before, it will now have 50 now after a recent change in the law. The right now has exactly half of those seats: 22 for Chile Podemos Más, two for right-wing independents, and one for Rojo Edwards from the Republican Party. The opposition obtained 22 seats as well, with the majority for the Socialist Party. Newcomers in the Senate are the Communist Party, with two seats. Another important role in the Senate will be for Fabiola Campillai and Karin Bianchi, independent candidates who managed to reach the Senate without the formal support of any political party.

Whoever becomes president, whether it is Boric or Kast, will have to deal with a fragmented House and Senate, with a small political center, and two large political sectors that oppose each other. A major role, especially in the House, is for the party of Parisi. As if governing Chile isn’t difficult enough already, the country’s future president has even more challenges ahead.

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