Maya Fernandez Allende, the granddaughter of Chile’s fallen socialist president Salvador Allende, won her first major political race on Sunday as leftist parties regained lost ground in municipal elections nationwide.
The election featured millions of citizens voting for the first time after Chile greatly expanded its electorate, although absenteeism was also high.
Fernandez, 41, defeated incumbent Mayor Pedro Sabat of the center-right National Renovation party in Nunoa, a district of the capital.
A socialist and veterinarian by trade, she served on the local council in the district after growing up in Cuba, where her mother Beatriz lived in exile after Salvador Allende died during Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 coup.
The left’s biggest victory was in central Santiago, where Carolina Toha defeated Pablo Zalaquett of the ultra-conservative Independent Democratic Union.
Toha served as former president Michelle Bachelet’s spokeswoman, and her father, Salvador Allende’s vice president, died after being jailed and tortured.
For many members of Chile’s student protest movement, which burst onto the scene last year with a series of massive demonstrations, this was their first chance to vote.
In all, Chileans decided 345 mayor’s offices and 2,224 local council seats nationwide.
With more than 90 percent of the vote counted, the ruling right-wing alliance was winning 37 percent of the seats, while parties of the divided left were winning 43 percent overall.
Former president Ricardo Lagos called Sunday’s election, the first since Chile added 5 million new voters to the rolls by automatically registering all adults, the end of an era.
By making voter registration automatic, Chile increased its electorate from 8.1 million to 13.4 million in the nation of 17 million.
However, with voting no longer mandatory, many stayed at home, dismaying those who had hoped that so much social upheaval would lead to bigger changes.
The old electorate had moved increasingly to the right as ever-fewer Chileans bothered to register and vote.
Some analysts say the left’s concessions were a mistake, noting that wealthier people are more likely to vote even when it is not mandatory.