Monday, December 16th 2013 - 11:02 UTC

Bachelet sweeps in but as in the first round abstention prevailed

Michelle Bachelet is set to resume her former position as president of Chile in March 2014 after a resounding second round victory against her opponent and former childhood playmate, Evelyn Matthei. In an acceptance speech late Sunday night the president-elect touched on two key platforms of her campaign: free higher education and a new constitution.

The president-elect celebrates but on Sunday 5.7 million ballots were cast out of over 12 million

 “I want to thank the young people who have protested for free, public and quality education,” Bachelet said. “[Chile needs] a new constitution, born in democracy, which guarantees that in future the majority will never again be silenced by a minority.”

With 99.85% of polling stations and almost 5.7 million votes counted late Sunday night, Bachelet was the clear winner of the two candidates, though abstention far outstripped them both.

The president elect received 62.2% of preferences, or 3.5 million votes against Matthei’s 37.8% preference, 2.1 million votes. The null vote was 1.5%, 0.6% were blank.

The Electoral Service (Servel) numbers Chile’s total electorate at 13.6 million. However, many believe the roll is inflated by the inclusion of double entries, deceased voters and Chileans abroad for whom there is no mechanism to vote. President Sebastián Piñera puts the number at 12 million.

In the election first round on 17 November, 6.7 million voted, with Bachelet securing 46.7% of preferences while Matthei won 25%.

Piñera, whose administration oversaw the transition to a voluntary voting system, lamented the low turnout, though personally rang Bachelet to congratulate her on a “great triumph.”

“Firstly, I would like to congratulate and express my admiration for [Bachelet] because I know that a nine-month campaign is hard and difficult, but it has been a great triumph, and today Chileans have expressed themselves with clarity, in valid and transparent elections which fill us with pride,” Piñera said.

Bachelet defeated Piñera in her first bid for the presidency in 2005 but was barred from consecutive terms by the constitution.

Piñera also congratulated his counterpart from the right-leaning Alianza coalition, saying that Matthei took on “the enormous responsibility” of flying the conservative banner with “courage and commitment.”

For her part, an emotional Matthei accepted full responsibility for the defeat, though said she had no regrets about running as candidate after her predecessor Pablo Longueira pulled out citing depression in July.

“My deepest desire, to be honest, is that [Bachelet] does very well — no one who loves Chile could wish otherwise,” she said. “I’m tired, it has been a long and intense campaign, but I’m serene and at peace. Everything that has happened over these unique intense and historic months has been marvelous.”

Bachelet is scheduled to meet Piñera on Monday morning after the latter expressed his desire for a “rapid and efficient” changing of the guard. Bachelet will be sworn into office on March 11.

By Joseph Hinchliffe – The Santiago Times

5 comments Feed

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1 ChrisR (#) Dec 16th, 2013 - 01:04 pm Report abuse
This is a truism:

Anybody can make an impression when they have all the money needed which is why in the good times many people get the wrong impression of other people's abilities.

It is far harder to make things happen when the copper revenue is dropping and reducing her options. Only when things are in depression do you discover the real ability of all theses “good” guys.

Still, she is in now, we will all have to wait and see!
2 Heisenbergcontext (#) Dec 17th, 2013 - 04:59 am Report abuse
I am impressed by the graciousness in defeat exhibited by both Evelyn Matthei and Sebastion Pinera. When Matthei says “My deepest desire, to be honest is that [ Bachelet ] does very well...” I actually believe her.

Chile is providing an example to anyone who cares to pay attention ( Mercosur's two enfant terrible's some to mind ) of how dignified leadership can work.
3 Stevie (#) Dec 17th, 2013 - 11:33 am Report abuse
Correction: dignified non-leadership...
4 Heisenbergcontext (#) Dec 17th, 2013 - 12:55 pm Report abuse
@ Stevie

I'm always interested in positive examples of political leaders putting their nations interests ahead of any personal or ideological agenda they may have, and this seems to be a clear example of such.

I'm glad Michelle Bachelet won, for my own sentimental reasons I freely admit, but the right of centre politicians also represent many people - they still have a leadership role to play in their country. They have chosen to do so by respecting their hard-won democracy and I believe that is a good thing and an example to politicians everywhere - not just in South America.
5 Stevie (#) Dec 17th, 2013 - 01:00 pm Report abuse
I think so too, Heisen.
And let's hope the right wing enjoys their leadership... ;)

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