On Sunday, for the seventh time since Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship ended, Chileans went to the polls to elect a president and National Congress. Only 46 percent of those eligible to vote actually did so, one of the lowest turnouts in the country’s history. In the presidential race, no candidate won a full majority, which means there will be a runoff, scheduled for Dec. 17. Although most opinion polls had shown right-wing billionaire and former president Sebastián Piñera with a clear lead of between 42 and 47 percent, the latest results show he received only 36.6 percent of the ballots. The next-place candidate, Sen. Alejandro Guillier, the center-left candidate, received just under 23 percent. Perhaps more significant than the presidential first round was the transformation of Congress. This was the first time Chile has gone to the polls since major electoral reforms. Voters weighed in on all the members of the legislature’s lower house, and almost half the Senate. What were the results?
For 28 years, a tailor-made electoral system allowed the two larger coalitions — one on the center right that still hosts some of Pinochet’s old allies, and another on the center left — to rule Congress without admitting smaller parties.
But over the past eight years, Chile has seen significant social and political transformations. In 2011, during Piñera’s government, students protested en masse over the decreasing role of the country in secondary education, and for the introduction of free higher education. More recently, lawmakers on both right and left — including family members of President Michelle Bachelet — were implicated in high-profile corruption cases.