Chilean president says no changes
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- President Ricardo Lagos said Monday his
government would not alter its plans for constitutional and other reforms
despite strong gains by the right-wing opposition in legislative elections the
"The government has its agenda and will follow it," the Socialist president said.
Lagos rejected the resignations of Cabinet ministers of the centrist Christian
Democratic party, the largest partner in his center-left coalition. The ministers
submitted their resignations after their party dropped from 38 House seats to 24 in
The opposition, including supporters of former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet,
made substantial gains, but failed to wrest control from the governing coalition,
which saw its majority in the lower house narrowed from 20 to 6 seats and lost its
one-vote advantage in the Senate.
"In Chile, there are now two blocks with similar, solid popular support,"
opposition leader Joaquin Lavin.
The president declared the election a victory and said he would go ahead
for a massive overhaul of the public health system and the passing of a divorce law
that is opposed by the right.
Also on the government's agenda are plans to rid the constitution -- written
Pinochet's 1973-90 dictatorship -- of clauses considered undemocratic, including
one prohibiting the president from firing top military commanders.
"I do not see why we can't continue to work in different areas," Lagos said.
Lavin said his legislators were prepared to cooperate with the government,
strengthened opposition force may make it difficult for Lagos to push key
legislation through, especially constitutional reforms that require higher quorums
than regular bills.
Lagos said his immediate concern was to create jobs to curb the national
unemployment rate of 9.7 percent, which was widely seen as a contributing factor
to the gains by the opposition.
The ruling Coalition for Democracy had 47.9 percent support in the elections,
moderate drop from the 50 percent it received in legislative elections four years
The right-wing opposition front, the Alliance for Chile, had 44 percent,
up from 30
percent in 1997. Most of this gain came from the Independent Democratic Union,
UDI, a party made up mostly of Pinochet supporters.
Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.