SANTIAGO – The Chilean right will, in all likelihood, take several key municipalities from the governing center-left New Majority coalition if the trend spotted so far in the vote count for Sunday’s local elections holds up.
With 50 percent of the votes counted, the mayorships of Central Santiago, Providencia and Maipu, all located in Greater Santiago, will almost assuredly move into the hands of the political right, who will also retain Las Condes, Vitacura, Viña del Mar, Temuco and Ñuñoa, among others.
The New Majority appears set to retain the city of Concepcion, the country’s second-largest, while the right lost Valparaiso, which fell into the hands of the leftist Democratic Revolution party.
“Along with recognizing this result, there is much to be thankful for this evening despite being faced with a defeat,” said the mayor of Central Santiago, Carolina Toha, with the Democracy Party, or PPD, which is part of the New Majority coalition.
“Democracy is democracy and is respected ... We need to congratulate the victors,” said Toha, who lost the mayorship to Felipe Alessandri, an independent candidate with the conservative Let’s Go Chile coalition, who after learning of his apparent win said: “We’re making history in Santiago.”
Former Health Minister Helia Molina, who was running for the mayorship of the capital municipality of Ñuñoa for the governing coalition, acknowledged her defeat and said that this was a punishment vote against the government of Michelle Bachelet.
“I think that – in some way – it’s a punishment of the New Majority government. It’s a public trial,” said Molina, adding that “when there’s a lot of absenteeism, the right benefits.”
Participation in the local elections was around 35 percent, much below the 2012 municipal elections, when 43 percent of voters turned out.
One of the biggest surprises of the day came in the port city of Valparaiso, where independent Jorge Esteban Sharp with the Democratic Revolution party, appears to have defeated the candidates of the two majority coalitions.
The local elections were held amid controversy over an error in the electoral census that could have affected tens of thousands of voters, possibly increasing the already-high absenteeism.