From the archives: Chilean Opposition Scores More Victories in Congressional Vote

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Sweetening its landslide presidential victory, Chile's opposition coalition won heavily in congressional elections, while the nation's once-prominent far-leftists did poorly, according to final results Friday.

After 16 years of military rule, Chile's traditional political parties for the most part showed their resilience in Thursday's vote. And the nation's famed political families contributed more than their share of offspring to the House and Senate, despite outgoing President Augusto Pinochet's attempt to wean the nation from its penchant for party politics.

Patricio Aylwin, the Christian Democratic Party leader who was elected president with 55.2% of the vote, declared that he would not permit the military to govern from the shadows after civilian rule returns in March.

"Chile is effectively moving back to democracy," the 71-year-old former senator told reporters. "There will be no puppet democracy, and there will be no extra-democratic control over my government."

Foreshadowing some of the pressures Aylwin will face, hundreds of leftist youths demonstrated in the streets demanding the release of political prisoners. Small groups stoned police, who answered with tear gas and water cannons.

Conflict has been the exception during the campaign, however, and Aylwin reflected the new-found sense of civic harmony by declaring to an immense victory street party Friday night: "The people have won--all the people."

The distribution of seats in the Congress, which has been closed since Pinochet came to power in a coup in 1973, will be crucial as the new government attempts to assert its authority. Aylwin has said he hopes to overturn a number of laws imposed by Pinochet and thus "untie the bonds left by the dictatorship."

Aylwin said he was pleased with the performance of his own centrist Christian Democratic Party in the congressional elections. The Christian Democrats won 13 of the 22 Senate seats that were captured by the 17-party opposition alliance, which calls itself the "rainbow coalition." Rightist candidates won 16 seats. Another nine senators are to be appointed.

The Christian Democratic Party, which became Chile's largest single party in the mid-1960s, also performed well in the House of Deputies, taking 39 of the majority bloc of 72 seats won by the opposition coalition as a whole. The rightist coalition that had backed the main losing presidential candidate, conservative Hernan Buchi, won 48 of the 120 seats at stake.

National Renovation, the principal rightist party and heir to the old conservative National Party, did far better than new parties of the far right that were formed during Pinochet's years. Those smaller parties, including the Independent Democratic Union and National Advance, had remained loyal to Pinochet, despite his defeat in a 1988 plebiscite in which he sought another eight years in power.

Complicated election rules, contained in Pinochet's 1980 constitution, favored the two large blocs at the expense of smaller parties. Pinochet sought to avoid a repeat of the dispersion of political power that brought Marxist President Salvador Allende to office from 1970-73 with barely more than one-third of the popular vote. The military coup that toppled Allende on Sept. 11, 1973, interrupted an unusually stable history of civil rule in this country.

Two candidates were elected in each district from lists nominated by the coalitions. To win both seats, an alliance needed two-thirds of the valid votes cast. The opposition "rainbow coalition" won both House seats in 11 of the 60 congressional districts and took both Senate seats in just three of the 19 senatorial districts, even though both of its candidates often won higher totals than their rightist opponents.

In the most surprising result, Jaime Guzman, leader of the right-wing Independent Democratic Union, defeated Ricardo Lagos, leader of the new and growing Party for Democracy, which is largely made up of elements of the old Chilean Socialist Party that have moved toward the center. Lagos had 399,408 votes to 224,302 for Guzman in their Santiago district. But Lagos' total was just below that of his coalition partner, Christian Democratic Party President Andres Zaldivar, and their combined total fell just short of 67% needed to allow the coalition to win both seats.

Lagos, a prominent moderate leftist leader, had been considered a likely winner and a potential pre sidential candidate in 1993. He still is expected to play a major role in Aylwin's government. Other moderates on the left, by contrast, did well. The Radical Party, founded in 1863 and Chile's main progressive force through much of the past century, won two Senate seats, belying predictions that the party was on the verge of vanishing.

Having the right name didn't hurt. Three relatives of the late Eduardo Frei, a Christian Democrat who was president from 1964 to 1970, won seats for the opposition coalition. Frei's son Eduardo Jr., daughter Carmen and nephew Arturo were all elected to the Senate.

On the right, a nephew of former President Jorge Alessandri was elected senator, and another relative won a House seat. Aylwin's brother was elected to the house, as was Evelyn Matthei, daughter of air force Gen. Fernando Matthei, a member of today's ruling military junta.

The "rainbow coalition" excluded most of the old Marxist left, but a number of Communists and more radical leftists ran as independents or as members of a separate coalition. Nearly all were defeated, and just one Communist, Manuel Riesco, was elected to the House.

The Chilean Communist Party, a Stalinist party, traditionally has been a significant force. But years of government harassment and the party's seeming refusal to moderate its hard-line positions appear to have hurt the party in Thursday's vote.


The new center-left Chilean government, which takes office March 11, 1990, will face an array of immediate and longer-term problems, including:

The future role of outgoing President Augusto Pinochet, who is entitled to stay on as commander of the army for eight more years. President-elect Patricio Aylwin has said Pinochet should retire.

Unraveling a web of legal restrictions on the new government left by Pinochet, including laws that limit Congress' authority and give tenure to Pinochet's bureaucrats. Pinochet has also appointed hundreds of mayors who cannot be removed. Aylwin hopes to overturn those laws and have local authorities elected but will need the support of the democratic right to make those changes.

Resolving the issue of human rights abuses during Pinochet's 16-year reign. In addition to the issue of about 700 missing persons, cases are pending in many more alleged incidents of torture and killings. Pinochet has said that if any of the military men are touched, "the state of law ends," but leftist parties are pressing for trials.

Dampening expectations of the poor and working class for higher pay, stronger union rights and other benefits, after years of strict limits on wages. The government agrees it must raise wages--but gradually, to avoid inflation.

Maintaining business confidence, both domestically and internationally, to keep investment strong. Aylwin has pledged to continue the broad lines of Pinochet's free-market, export-oriented economic policy that has brought Chile unusual prosperity in Latin America.

THE VOTE Final results of presidential election. Patricio Aylwin, Coalition for Democracy: 55.2% Hernan Buchi, Democratic Pact (Conservative): 29.4% Francisco Javier Errazuriz, Right-wing Populist: 15.4%

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