Voting in Chile's parliamentary elections on Sunday (March 4) took place under heavy military security.?
Voting in Chile's parliamentary elections on Sunday (March 4) took place under heavy military security. Armed troops were evident in prominent positions in and around polling booths, and important candidates were surrounded by troop bodyguards when they turned out to cast their own votes.
The elections, for all the 150-seat Chamber of Deputies and half the 50-seat senate, passed quietly. Result announcements were postponed, however, from Monday to Tuesday (March 5-6) because of the needed for a recount in the closely-fought senatorial voting in the Santiago area - Chile's capital. But early results elsewhere indicated that the combined opposition to President Salvador Allende's coalition government would fail to get the two-thirds majority they were seeking in both parliamentary houses - a position in which they would be able to seriously hamper President Allende, who has another three years in office before presidential elections.
The same early results, however, indicated that Allende -- seeking to strengthen his position in Parliament out of Sunday's election -- would not achieve a stronger parliament.
Since his election in November 1970, when he became the world's first freely-elected Marxist leader, his combined opposition has held a small majority in parliament. Although the majority was not the two-thirds required to force a vote of censure -- and Allende's possible resignation; or at least forced radical changes to government police -- it was enough to force two major cabinet reshuffles.
The election campaign itself was dominated by two personalities and their parties -- President Allende and his left-wing coalition, and former President Eduardo Frei, a member of the Christian Democrat party who was standing for a senate seat. Frei, who was Allende's predecessor in the presidency, is reported to be aiming for the presidency once again in the 1976 elections. The two men, who have had similar political careers, were once close friends. But since the moderate Christian Democrats joined the extreme right-wing Nacional Party to form Allende's combined opposition, personal relations between them are reported to have cooled. Once, they met frequently in private -- but, as far as its known, they have not met for the past year.