Popular discontent and voters fatigue gave the Chilean centre left ruling coalition of President Ricardo Lagos a strong blow in last Sunday's legislative election.
Santiago's charismatic mayor Joaquín Lavín who led the right wing opposition Alliance for Chile, emerged as the great winner with an eight points advance to 44% of the vote, totalling 57 seats out of 120 in the Lower House. In this powerful forward surge Mr. Lavín's party, Independent Democratic Union, UDI, almost doubled its total vote since the previous Legislative election in 1997, becoming the main representation in Deputies, jumping from 22 to 35 seats, and toppling the Christian Democrats as the most important single political force in Chile since the recovery of democracy a decade ago. "UDI exploited popular discontent with the government and intelligently captured the middle ground from the ruling coalition", said Fernando Figueroa, a local opinion poll analyst. Mr. Lavín also successfully and gradually distanced himself from the former dictator Augusto Pinochet that until then was the incarnation of the opposition. Concertación, President Lagos ruling coalition lost 2,5% of the vote, managing 48%. This means that its Lower House majority dropped from ten to three seats. However President Lagos remarked that in democracy, "the one with most votes wins", and interpreted the results as a strong backing for the four years he still has ahead. Growing unemployment, a decline in Chile's rate of growth and unfulfilled government promises attracted voters to Mr. Lavín's aggressive and fresh campaign. Mr. Lavín barely lost to Mr. Lagos in the second round of the January 2000 presidential election, and with Santiago under strong control figures as the main presidential hopeful in 2005. From a strictly political point of view analysts interpret the results as extremely healthy for Chilean democracy since it marks the emergence of two strong blocks, both committed to western values and free enterprise, "like in Europe, United States and several Latinamerican countries".