The Chilean ruling conservative coalition finally patched up differences and decided to hold primaries for the November presidential vote next June 30. UDI, Independent Democratic Union and Chile’s largest party will support former Economy minister Pablo Longueira and RN, National Renovation, former Defence minister Andrés Allamand.
The week took off with a major blow for the coalition when Laurence Golborne, who helped lead the high-profile rescue of Chilean miners in 2010 to become the conservatives’ hope for November withdrew Monday as a potential candidate, knocked out by two scandals.
Cencosud, a major retailer Golborne managed before becoming minister faced a financial scandal referred to commissions charged to clients, and although the court did not convict him, the company was ordered to pay a massive fine and left his reputation tarnished. Furthermore a television program unveiled that while minister he failed to declare among his assets a society he owns in the British Virgin Islands, a fiscal paradise.
I do not want to be an obstacle. And I hereby remove myself from consideration for any candidacy. The party will do whatever is best for the country Golborne said publicly after holding a meeting with the political council of UDI, Independent Democratic Union, the strongest party in Chile.
With his demise Economy Minister Pablo Longueira, also from UDI, became the conservatives' standard-bearer.
Former public works minister Golborne caught the world's attention during the successful rescue of 33 miners who became trapped underground near Copiapo in the north, in 2010. Early polling showed Golborne, now an independent, had the highest support, around 8.8%, among conservatives, yet well behind Socialist ex-president Michelle Bachelet, who has about 43% support.
The first reaction from the conservative coalition was to avoid the primaries because they could further compromise unity since former Defense minister Andrés Allamand from National Renovation, the other member of the conservative ruling coalition led by President Sebastian Piñera, had anticipated he would be participating.
Nevertheless Longueira acting as a potential candidate in a strong speech attacked the opposition saying they can only offer “misery, demagoguery and populist proposals”, and emphasized that Concertacion, the centre left coalition has “repeatedly cheated and promised” what they never deliver “particularly for the middle class and the most modest of Chilean society”.
He went further and accused the opposition of organizing a coalition where “the Communist party is going to tell the Chileans what to do”.
On his side Allamand the other presidential hopeful said he had the greatest respect for Longueira: “we have both been members of the most successful government Chile has ever enjoyed, and if in the primaries he wins, the following day we will all be behind to support him and ensure victory again; compact unity to victory”.
Chilean political analysts said that avoiding the primary most probably would have meant the conservatives would have had two presidential candidates which would further strengthen the chances of Michelle Bachelet.
Next Wednesday the legal timetable for the different Chilean parties to register their primary candidates expires.