Will Chile Elect Its First Female President?
Chile, a conservative country in which divorce became legal just last year and only 36 percent of women have jobs, is holding elections tomorrow. The front runner for president is Michelle Bachelet, a divorced mother of three who also happens to be an atheist and a member of the Socialist Party.
Polls show Ms. Bachelet, a former defense minister, far ahead of her rivals, Sebastian Pinera, one of Chile's wealthiest businessmen; Joaquin Lavin, the ultraconservative former mayor of Santiago; and Tomas Hirsch of the Communist Party. Although a runoff is likely, the prevailing opinion here is that Ms. Bachelet will be the ultimate winner.The fact that Bachelet is a woman, even a divorced woman is significant, especially when you think about the pathetically low number of women politicians in the Unitd States, but why are papers like the Washington Post still leading with a description of her outfit?
If she is, she will be the first woman in the Americas to be elected president not because she was a wife of a famous politician, but because of her own record. That this is a probability is even more astonishing when one considers that nothing like it has occurred in countries like the United States or France, where the democratic tradition is far more stable and feminism's impact presumably far greater. Curiously, American television is now running a series that revolves around the "novel" idea of a female president. What is fiction in the United States may well become reality in Chile.
Everyonee in the audience was dressed in dark blue or black. Some wore clerical collars, and most had heavy silver crosses dangling around their necks. But Michelle Bachelet wore an electric-pink jacket that sent a clear message: She was a candidate for president, not sainthood.Later in the piece, we learn that if elected, Bachelet will choose women for at least half of her Cabinet posts.
"My candidacy represents a society that is more progressive and modern, that recognizes both men and women do have talents," said Bachelet, who most recently served as minister of defense for outgoing President Ricardo Lagos.
"She's already doing things in a different way, and people have criticized her harshly for it," said Marta Lagos, a Santiago-based pollster and political analyst who is not related to the current president. "She has a daughter, and in September they took a few days off and went to the beach, in the middle of the campaign. It's unthinkable for any politician to say, 'I'm with my family, and this is my time -- no one else's.' But that's what she has said."