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Chile election: Bachelet and Matthei go to second round

Monday, November 18th 2013 - 06:00 UTC
Full article 13 comments

Left-wing candidate Michelle Bachelet has won the first round of voting in Chile's presidential election.She took 47% of the votes, against 25% for her main rival, Evelyn Matthei, a former Labour minister in the centre-right government of Sebastian Pinera. A second round of voting will take place on 15 December.

 “Reaching the second is undoubtedly a great triumph,” Ms Matthei posted on her Twitter account.

“When this project began, many doubted we would be here. But here we are,” she wrote.

She told supporters in Santiago: “The country has mostly voted for the proposal that we have made for Chile, so that Chile will be once and for all the modern and fair country that we want.”

“We won tonight and we will work to win by an ample margin in December.”

Most opinion polls had indicated a victory for Ms Bachelet in the first round.

Ms Bachelet, a paediatrician by training, was Chile's first woman president between 2006 and 2010.

She was constitutionally barred from serving a second successive term and was very popular when she left office.

Sunday's vote went ahead without major incidents.

But students, who for years have been staging protests demanding educational reform, occupied the campaign headquarters of Ms Bachelet.

They laid out a banner outside the building which read: “Change is in the streets, not in the Moneda [Presidential Palace].”

Ms Bachelet and Ms Matthei grew up in the same neighbourhood but their fathers - both air force generals - were on opposite sides of the political divide during the military coup of 1973.

Ms Matthei entered the race after two candidates of the centre-right alliance resigned, earlier this year: one for alleged financial irregularities, the other one for struggling with depression.

Evelyn Matthei, 60, has called for a continuation of the policies of outgoing President Sebastian Pinera, asserting that Chileans are “better off” now than when he came to power four years ago.

Speaking after it became clear a second round would take place, she wrote on Twitter: “Let us fight for the votes of the other seven candidates now, and for those of Michelle Bachelet.”

Ms Bachelet leads an alliance of her Socialist Party, Christian Democrats and Communists and has campaigned on policies designed to reduce the gap between rich and poor.

Chile is one of the richest countries in Latin America, but millions have staged protests over the past few years to push for a wider distribution of wealth and better education.

Ms Bachelet, 62, wants to increase taxes to offer free university education and reform political and economic structures dating from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled from 1973 to 1990.

Her manifesto this time is much more radical than before, says the BBC's Gideon Long in Santiago.

Ms Bachelet and Ms Matthei are the daughters of generals, once friends, who found themselves on opposite sides of the political divide once Gen Pinochet came to power.

As children in the 1950s, they were neighbours and used to play together on the airbase where their fathers worked.

Under Gen Pinochet, Evelyn Matthei's father, Fernando, rose up the ranks to run a military school.

Michelle Bachelet's father, Alberto, who worked for the Socialist administration overthrown by General Pinochet, died of a heart attack in 1974.

An investigation concluded that the 51-year-old general probably died of heart problems aggravated by torture sessions at the military academy.

A judge ruled earlier this year that General Matthei had no knowledge or involvement in the torture.

The lower house of congress and half the senate are also being elected. (BBC)

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

Top Comments

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  • Anglotino

    Oh! So we will go to the second round after all.

    49% turnout from what I have read. While I'm a fan of compulsory attendance in elections, Chile will have to live with less than half the eligible population voting and then less than half of them choosing the winner.

    But seems to be pretty boring election so far…. and that is high praise.

    Nov 18th, 2013 - 11:12 am 0
  • ElaineB

    I thought the turn out was pretty good considering it was voluntary and the polls were predicting Bachelet would walk it in the first round.

    I hope whoever wins - Bachelet seems likely - will address some of the employment laws. I absolutely agree that education and social issues are a priority but the employment laws are creating a 'don't care' generation that will eventually slow the progress of Chile.

    Nov 18th, 2013 - 11:35 am 0
  • Anglotino

    ElaineB

    Agreed, all countries eventually have to reform certain facets of the system that get them along the road to development. Education and labour market reforms are a perfect target.

    There is, however, less pressing need for constitutional change. While I am all for it, I think it should be taken slowly and never rushed. And any changes should be offered to the public perhaps at the next presidential election.

    Chile will continue to develop, just depends at what speed.

    Nov 18th, 2013 - 12:10 pm 0
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