This is essentially an update of Caviedes’ earlier book The Politics of Chile: A Socio-geographical Assessment (1979), which covered the Chilean presidential elections from 1932 to 1973. Caviedes begins this study with the 1970 and 1971 elections and once again reviews the results of the March 1973 congressional elections, which preceded the coup in September. He follows this with a much-too-brief review (eight pages) of the period of the Pinochet dictatorship, 1973 to 1988. In the latter year, as prescribed by the 1980 constitution, a plebiscite was held on renewing the eight-year term Pinochet had secured, somewhat fraudulently, as a byproduct of a manipulated plebiscite in 1980. When, to his considerable surprise, he lost the plebiscite, presidential and congressional elections were held in December 1989.
Most of this book is devoted to an analysis of the results of the 1988 and 1989 votes. They are broken down mainly by region and gender, although Caviedes tries, without much success, to engage in what he calls “factor analysis” involving variables such as numbers of television sets owned, numbers of refrigerators, hospital facilities, and infant mortality rates. What emerges from what was basically a contest between (translating the Spanish literally) the “officialists” and the opposition is that urban areas tended to be anti-Pinochet and rural areas some-what more favorable to him in the plebiscite, and the pattern was similar in the 1989 elections. Furthermore, women (who vote separately in Chile) tended to vote somewhat more conservatively. The effects of the two-member district voting, which overrepresented the Right, are also analyzed; and a clear decline in support for the extremes in comparison with the early 1970s is documented. But the drama and excitement of Chile’s return to democracy are almost totally missing amid the graphs and regional maps.
For a book written by a Chilean, this one contains some surprising errors. The famous “March of the Empty Pots” is situated in the period leading up to the 1973 coup instead of in late 1971. Caviedes seems not to understand the relationship of the Party for Democracy (PPD) to the Socialist party, and at one point calls its leader Pablo rather than Ricardo Lagos. The Christian Democrats are said to have had “many” leaders sent into exile when actually this happened to only two of them (the second was exiled twice) (p. 31). And oddly, the UDI, the most pro-Pinochet of the Chilean parties, is described as “not as heavily rightist” as the other major conservative party (p. 84). But aside from these minor errors, this is a useful work—as far as it goes.