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Chilean independent hopeful wrecks bipartisan presidential race

Saturday, October 24th 2009 - 18:09 UTC
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Public opinion polls show maverick Marco Enríquez-Ominami support steadily growing Public opinion polls show maverick Marco Enríquez-Ominami support steadily growing

Two of Chile’s leading polls show independent presidential candidate Marco Enríquez-Ominami closing in on his rival Senator Eduardo Frei, and faring better in a run-off vote against conservative candidate Sebastián Piñera. However, the polls have widely differing predictions of each candidate’s performance in the first round.

A poll released this week by the Santiago-based Centre for Studies of Contemporary Issues (CERC) shows the independent candidate losing a second-round runoff election against Piñera, 45% to 36%. Frei, if put into the same situation, would lose to Piñera 49% to 33%.

Chile’s election laws mandate a runoff election if no candidate wins a 50% majority in the December 13 election.

The CERC poll also showed Frei and Enríquez-Ominami tied at 20% in the first round, with Piñera in a clear lead at 41% and far-left candidate Jorge Arrate at 3%. This was the first time that Frei and Enríquez-Ominami have polled equally in a CERC poll.

Frei, the candidate from the centre-left ruling Concertación coalition and a former president, had until this week held steady in second place.

But another poll, this one by Ipsos Public Affairs, paints a very different picture. Their October poll shows Frei in a significantly better position, commanding 27.2% of the vote, behind Piñera’s 36.7% and significantly ahead of Enríquez-Ominami’s 17.8% with Arrate scoring 3.7% in the Ipsos poll.

According to Ipsos, Piñera has gained 0.7% support since their August poll. Frei has gained 4.3%, and Arrate 2.2%, while Enríquez-Ominami has lost 2.8%.

The Ipsos poll, however, put Enríquez-Ominami in much better standing against Piñera in a runoff, Piñera leading just 42.8% to 42.3%, a much closer margin than Frei would have, who would lose to Piñera 44.5% to 39.6%.

One factor cited in both polls was the Sept. 23 presidential debate, in which all three leading candidates traded accusations of misdeeds. CERC reported that 20% of total respondents believed that Piñera had won the debate, above 11% who said Enríquez-Ominami, the 9% who thought Arrate had won, and 7% Frei.

The Ipsos poll followed the same theme, asking if the debate had changed voting intentions. While Arrate’s share increased after the debate, from 2.8% to 4.6%, both Frei and Enríquez-Ominami lost shares, while Piñera soared, jumping from 32.8% before to 40.5% after the debate.

“The presidential election has become very competitive and the outcome is uncertain,” CERC wrote in its analysis of the poll.

“The coming weeks will be crucial in determining the result, the most interesting election since the 1988 referendum because of the uncertainty of who the next president and the political repercussions thereof”.

The Chilean presidential election is scheduled to take place on Sunday December 13, 2009, with a run-off for January 17.

By Daniel Zarchy - Santiago Times

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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