Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Chileans Vote for Christian Democrats Frei, with Win over Right-Wing, Is First President to Succeed Another from Same Party in 50 Years

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Chileans Vote for Christian Democrats Frei, with Win over Right-Wing, Is First President to Succeed Another from Same Party in 50 Years

Article excerpt

CHILEAN voters overwhelmingly chose Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei Jr. to follow in the footsteps of his popular father as president.

Mr. Frei took approximately 58 percent of the vote in a decisive triumph over five rivals. The result confirmed the preponderant role of the centrist Christian Democratic Party in Chilean politics. Frei's closest rival, right-wing candidate Arturo Alessandri, won 24 percent of the vote.

Two minor bomb incidents marred the voting, a far cry from the political violence that marked Chile during the 1970s and 1980s.

Frei, who will take office next March 11 for a six-year term, was a newcomer to active politics when he ran and won a Senate seat in 1989. But the former engineer was no stranger to the halls of power.

As a boy, Frei played soccer in the inner courts of the La Moneda palace when his father, Eduardo Frei, a leading political figure of the time, was visiting with presidents. The elder Frei eventually was elected president and governed from 1964 to 1970.

That period of relative calm and prosperity has been viewed nostalgically ever since, as Chile later plunged into two decades of political violence, first under the short-lived socialist experiment of Salvador Allende, then a 17-year dictatorship under Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

In his victory speech, Frei pointed out that a back-to-back election of two presidents from the same party has not occurred in Chile for more than 50 years. He said his win reflected voters's desire for continuity and "a strong ethical and moral component in the business of governing."

"Democracy has triumphed, Chile has triumphed," Frei said in a speech after President Patricio Aylwin congratulated his successor. "We will create the room and opportunity for the poor and disadvantaged of this country to grow. We will reach the 21st century as a developed nation with humanity and solidarity." Frei's term lasts until the year 2000.

Frei's easy victory indicates overall satisfaction with the performance of the multi-party, center-left coalition which took office almost four years ago. The coalition, under Mr. Aylwin, has steered a conservative course in economic policy and avoided conflicts with the armed forces through continuous consultations and a relatively hands-off attitude toward the issue of human rights violations during General Pinochet's rule. …

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