Chile's center-left coalition seeks renewal

AP News
Posted: Oct 05, 2011 5:44 PM
Chile's center-left coalition seeks renewal

Chile's coalition of four center-left parties, displaced after 20 years in power by the right-wing alliance led by President Sebastian Pinera, agreed Wednesday to turn itself into a much broader opposition force that fights for constitutional and social reforms.

"We have decided that we have to form a new majority that isn't expressed by the Concertation," said Sen. Carolina Toha, president of the center-left Party for Democracy, who has proposed changing the coalition's name to "Opposition Convergence."

A new, broader coalition would aim to embrace the entire left, without the vetoes and exclusions that weakened their forces ahead of Pinera's victory in 2010, said Ignacio Walker, president of the centrist Christian Democrats.

The announcement is the first serious response to a profound crisis for the Concertation of Parties for Democracy, created in 1988 to hasten the end of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship. The Concertation won four straight presidential elections before voters demanded a change in 2010.

Former President Patricio Aylwin, who governed from 1990-1994, heralded what he said would be a new era.

"The Concertation has served a historic role, and much still remains to be done. If it opens itself up to other forces, much better," he said.

With the announcement, the center-left coalition is launching three proposed reforms: a new constitution to replace the one drafted by Pinochet's dictatorship, a social accord to end Chile's strong inequalities, and a new, more inclusive politics that puts the Chilean state at the center of economic development.

Dep. Osvaldo Andrade, president of the Socialist Party and spokesman for the Concertation, said that this new, broader coalition won't permit the student-led education reform movement to fail in the face of the government's refusal to concede to its demands.

Wednesday's announcement comes 23 years to the day after the coalition, then recently formed, successfully campaigned for the plebiscite that removed Pinochet from presidential power.