Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet legacy lives heavily in a country which has had a spectacular economic performance since the return of democracy, but remains lame in several social and political issues.
One of them is the privatized education system, the subject of regular student protests, which former president (2006/2010) and currently running for another four years next November, Michelle Bachelet has pledged to reform.
However to achieve it, Bachelet must overcome another legacy of the Pinochet-era: an electoral system that makes it very difficult for any one party to gain a significant majority in Congress.
Bachelet wants to reform that too, but she would need to persuade the right-wing parties, currently in office with President Sebastian Piñera, to support her or win the sort of majority that is next to impossible under the current system.
The final part of her three-pronged initiative is to raise taxes in order to pay for education reforms. Again, she would need to win over the sceptical conservative Alianza, some of whose members are highly involved in the private education scheme.
“Probably no country has an experience like that, a democracy in which a minority can veto the majority and where the majority in the end cannot do what the people wanted when they voted for them,” Bachelet complained recently.
Her supporters have high expectations she will deliver on her pledges, and might not accept compromises with the right.
“If Bachelet wins, she is going to have it difficult. ... People will go out on the street demanding she carries out the reforms she promised” said political analyst Patricio Salvat.
But the framework that Pinochet and his allies created cannot easily be dismantled, admitted Sergio Bitar, who served as a minister under both (Salvador) Allende (ousted in a bloody military coup by Pinochet in 1973) and Bachelet, in an interview. “The feeling is that you are in a cage”.