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Chile's President Faces Conservative Congress

By Tim FrascaSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / December 18, 1989



SANTIAGO, CHILE

CHILE'S new president-elect, Patricio Aylwin Azocar, faces a complex task as the country's first civilian president after 16 years of military rule. The 71-year-old lawyer and veteran politician received 55 percent of the vote Thursday, eliminating the need for a runoff against the government candidate.

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But the strength of Mr. Aylwin's allies in the new bicameral Congress was diluted by the election laws drawn up under Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. Despite a solid majority, the opposition will remain in the minority in the Senate, where 10 of the 48 members are to be appointed from among former government and military officials.

In addition, some important opposition figures, such as Ricardo Lagos, the standard-bearer of Chile's moderate socialist movement, were not elected, despite outpolling their adversaries. Aylwin promised to change the electoral laws as one of his administration's first priorities.

He also said he expects to give the orders, and that General Pinochet will follow them.

``Let me make this clear: The Armed Forces are subordinate and owe obedience to the president,'' he said in a victory speech.

Pinochet promised to collaborate with the new civilian regime as commander in chief of the Armed Forces. According to the Constitution, Aylwin cannot remove him.

Aylwin came to represent Chile's yearning for a return to democracy. He headed the multiparty coalition that defeated Pinochet in a 1988 plebiscite on another presidential term. The opposition came to respect Aylwin's capacity for forging compromise formulas.

On Thursday, Communist candidates won about 6 percent of the vote, but failed to gain congressional representation.

With the pro-regime forces so strong in the new Congress, Aylwin must seek support from right-wing parties to carry out any major reforms, and even to pass such simple measures as a revision of the budget. But on the opposition's basic program - higher minimum wages, improved social services, and judicial reform - there is national consensus.

The question of how to handle human rights violations from the previous regime may be tougher to solve. Aylwin insists that the truth of what happened must be known, but leaves open the matter of what to do with any facts that are revealed.