November 19, 2017 at 8:56 pm EST | by Nicolás Levy
Piñera wins first round of Chile presidential election

Sebastián Piñera, Chile, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Chilean President Sebastián Piñera on Nov. 19, 2017, won the first round of his country’s presidential election. He will face off against Alejandro Guillier in a runoff next month because he did not win a majority of the votes. (Photo public domain)

SANTIAGO, Chile — Former Chilean President Sebastián Piñera and Alejandro Guillier on Sunday advanced to the second round of the country’s presidential election that will take place next month.

With more than 99.9 percent of the results in, Piñera and Guillier received the most votes.

Piñera, the most popular right-wing candidate, received 36.64 percent of the votes. Guillier — who is a candidate for President Michelle Bachelet’s center-left Nueva Mayoría coalition — received 22.7 percent of the vote. Neither Piñera nor Guillier received a majority of the votes, so they will face each other in the Dec. 17 runoff.

High voter turnout and support for Beatriz Sánchez of the left-wing Frente Amplio party, who came in third with 20.3 percent of the vote, surprised the media. In fact, experts say Guillier needs to create a new alliance with Frente Amplio if he hopes to win in December.

Chileans will have to choose between the right-wing candidate with no proposals for the LGBTI community and Guillier, who has said he will continue with efforts to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples and expand protections to transgender Chileans that Bachelet has supported.

Piñera’s campaign manager met with representatives of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a national LGBT advocacy group, last month. It is nevertheless likely that Piñera will not moderate his speech about LGBTI-specific matters, especially if he hopes to gain the support of voters who supported radical right-wing candidate José Antonio Kast.

Kast obtained 7.93 percent of the vote, a significant number composed by people who strongly oppose LGBTI rights.

LGBTI advocacy leaders are hopeful.

“The ballot is completely open,” said Juan Enrique Pi, president of Fundación Iguales, another national LGBT advocacy group. “It is clear that Piñera’s choice to turn to the right was a mistake. Chileans want equality and we have said that today: 56 percent of the electorship has voted in favor of a president who supports same-sex marriage.”

LGBT candidates for Congress lose

Meanwhile, Frente Amplio and Nueva Mayoría candidates gained a surprising majority in House of Deputies with 63 of 155 candidates who were elected.

This increase in the number of leftist members of Congress could bode well for advocates who continue to lobby lawmakers to support same-sex marriage and transgender rights bills. The additional pro-LGBT lawmakers could also challenge Piñera’s opposition to these measures if he wins the presidential election.

“This is historic and tremendous news for all those same-sex couples, gay and lesbian families and trans people who have been denied their rights because of their sexual orientation or gender identity since the beginning of our country,” said Ramón Gómez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, on Sunday in a statement.

The three openly LGBT congressional candidates — Luis Larraín, Óscar Rementería and Kena Lorenzini — lost their respective campaigns on Sunday.

Larraín, who is the former president of Fundación Iguales, thanked his supporters in a message that he posted to his social media pages. Larraín earlier this year sparked controversy when he aligned himself with a party that supports Piñera.

“The political class has a very low approval rating, a very low perception,” Larraín told the Washington Blade in October during an interview at his Santiago apartment. “I hope that what these new faces (in Chilean politics) are saying on the campaign trail translates into votes for each of them at the ballot boxes.”

Luis Larraín, gay news, Washington Blade

Luis Larraín, the former president of Fundación Iguales, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, on Nov. 19, 2017, lost his race for a seat in the country’s House of Deputies. (Photo courtesy of Luis Larraín)

Rementería, who is a spokesperson for the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, would have represented the Valparaíso Region in the Senate if he had won. Lorenzini, who was a member of a party that supports Frente Amplio, was running to represent the Maule Region in the Senate.

Preliminary results of the Chilean congressional elections that took place on Nov. 19, 2017, indicate more than 60 pro-LGBTI candidates won their races. Advocates have expressed optimism these results will help advance same-sex marriage and transgender rights in the Chilean Congress, which is located in the city of Valparaíso. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Nicolás Levy is a Chilean journalist who specializes in LGBT human rights. He is a correspondent for the Washington Blade in Santiago, Chile.

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