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Long and narrow, Chile clings to the western edge of South America's South­ern Cone. Hugging - page 22 / 46

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458                           Politics of Latin America

These conservative political parties had little difficulty forming a solid electoral front for the plebiscite. However, presidential and congressional elections have been a different story. For the 1989 presidential election. Na­tional Renovation and the Independent Democratic Union supported the candidacy of Hernan Buchi, the architect of Chile's strong economic recov­ery based on more flexible management of free-market economics. But a populist banker-businessman, Francisco Javier Errazuriz, also ran on the Right. Meanwhile, the seventeen-party center-Left opposition bloc, now call­ing itself the Coalition for Democracy (Concertacion de Partidos por la Democracia) backed the candidacy of Patricio Aylwin, a conservative Chris­tian Democrat who as president of the senate in 1973 had staunchly opposed Allende.

The presidential election results closely mirrored those of the plebiscite. Aylwin won with 55.2 percent of the vote. Conservatives garnered 44.8 per­cent. But those votes were split between Buchi (29.4 percent) and Errazuriz (15.4 percent). The far Left, by contrast, fared poorly. For example, the Com­munist party did not gain a single seat in the new congress. Aylwin and the Concertacion took office in March 1990.

Power and Politics

During the 1990s, redemocratized Chile became a paradox. On the positive side, it has enjoyed remarkable economic and political stability, making Chile the envy of many other Latin American nations. Between 1986 and 2000, the free-market economy installed by the military government produced rapid, sustained economic growth of approximately six percent per year with low inflation, virtually balanced budgets, and an investment rate of about 25 per­cent of GDP. The nation reduced its foreign debt, attracted significant quan­tities of foreign capital, and exported capital to neighboring countries. More­over, in 2000, Chile overcame the recession of the late 1990s that had been induced by an Asian financial crisis. Chile's political system has also enjoyed a remarkable degree of political stability in a hemisphere plagued by insta­bility. Historically, Chile's basic state institutions—the executive, the legis­lature, the courts—have functioned reasonably well and, in comparison to other Latin American countries, have been relatively free of corruption. Re-democratized Chile's smaller, leaner state continued that tradition. More­over, after 1990 Chile has enjoyed regular, fair, and free elections that truly decide "who governs" among well-established, institutionalized, program­matic political parties. Furthermore, the country became free of constant, de­bilitating political disorder, with few restrictions on freedom of expression and association.

Yet Chile's prosperity and political stability came at a high price. Socio-economically, Chile was a more unequal country by the year 2000 than it was before 1970; employees were more at the mercy of their employers and the labor market than before the military government; and environmental

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