A strange creature has emerged in Chilean politics. The neo-right claims to be center left but pushes narratives and policies of the right. Its members are ex-something who failed to adapt.
It is curious what happens in Chile with some politicians who fail to assimilate their political options and decisions; it’s cringeworthy to seem them being uncomfortable in someone else’s suit.
It also seems they live on past glories; on what they used to be, lost, but want to recover.
These politicians seem trapped in a glorified past. They’re ex-something – -Christian Democracts, -radicals, -lawmakers, -ministers, or other -government members.
Who is that?
They get together and recognize their trajectories, sign three or four declarations a year to defend someone of their group or to attack someone else. They form small movements and try to found parties, but fail because they lack public support and signatures. Most of them are older than 50 and not representative of Chile’s diverse society. They’re just part of an entrenched political elite.
They are also conservative and don’t like changes, some of them, especially ex-Christian Democrats, even opposed divorce and, of course, abortion. Members of this club claim to have stayed true to themselves while others changed, forgetting that new generations arose.
And yet, they claim they are center-left, based on what they were rather than what they are. This is simply an identity conflict.
These folks crossed the political oceans aimlessly until the Constitutional Convention – tasked with hammering out a new Constitution, whose draft was rejected by 62% in a plebiscite – started work. Debate on critical points in the draft catapulted them into the spotlight and provided purpose.
They promoted the reject option long before the final draft was ready and within a few weeks they took the initiative, even surprising the traditional right, whose best strategy until then was to hide its main figures because they were so unpopular, and a new Constitution was still popular.
That’s when the Chilean neo-right emerged in all its splendor, deploying a conservative narrative, which even left the traditional right somewhat stunned. The head of right-wing UDI party, which was opposed to a new Constitution, Javier Macaya, looked like a centrist next to persons like Cristián Warnken, leader of the Amarillos movement, or former Christian Democrat Senators Matías Walker and Ximena Rincón.
And the presidency of Gabriel Boric provided the neo-right with another boost. Its members are taking a more hardline position against the government than even the traditional right.
But why can’t they accept who they are? Do they think citizens will fall for the center-left label? It doesn’t seem so for now, since the neo-right is very much perceived as linked to the oligarchy, which provokes popular rejection.
The emergence of this neo-right is a very curious phenomenon. Apart from the Chile Vamos coalition, only few want to be called right-wingers. It is as if it was unpopular and should be avoided rhetorically if not politically.
Most pathetic are those that once were clearly left. Javiera Parada was member of a progressive party and a functionary during the Bachelet governments, but never reached the prominence she thought she was owed. Recently she led a campaign of a former minister of the right-wing Sebastián Piñera government to become head of Evópoli party. Oscar Garretón was a minister under Allende, but has been advancing right-wing discourse and policies for years. Several such examples exist.
Even though this neo-right has an ambiguous identity, in essence it wants power. Nobody knows how much public support it really has, nor does it have parliamentary representation, but still had influence in the agreement for the second constitutional process and demands to be able to nominate representatives for the experts committee.
Now it emerged the neo-right is working on agreements with the traditional right-wing and the far-right Republican Action to get representatives elected. And they still say they are center left.
Germán Silva Cuadra is an expert in corporate communications and a regular commentator on Chilean politics. His latest book is ‘No te reconozco Chile. Cómo entender al país que noqueó a la elite.’ Germán tweets under @gsilvacuadra.