December 9, 2013
Bachelet may win in first round, poll shows
SANTIAGO — Centre-left former president Michelle Bachelet holds a huge lead in Chile’s presidential election this year and may attract enough support to win outright in the first round, a key poll showed yesterday.
Around 47 percent of Chileans questioned by pollster CEP said they would vote for Bachelet if the election were held this Sunday, while 14 percent backed right-wing candidate Evelyn Matthei and 10 percent supported independent economist Franco Parisi.
Around 16 percent said they were undecided or would not vote. Only five percent of respondents predicted Matthei would win the election, compared to 78 percent for Bachelet. Among those who said they definitely or probably would vote, 54 percent backed Bachelet.
The poll suggests that support for Bachelet is gathering pace and that she is close to getting the 50 percent she needs to win the presidency outright on November 17, without the need for a runoff in December.
No candidate has accomplished that feat since 1993, when Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei beat a right-wing rival.
Chile has seen rapid economic growth in recent years and declining poverty, but income inequality has remained high. Bachelet, who served as president from 2006 to 2010, has said she wants to address that, principally by hiking corporate taxes to pay for an education overhaul.
In the CEP poll, 61 percent of respondents offered a positive evaluation of Bachelet while 15 percent offered a negative assessment of her. Twenty-three percent offered a positive evaluation of Matthei and 53 percent had a negative view.
‘A POWERFUL SIGNAL’
“I think this is a powerful signal that we are very pleased about,‘ Javiera Blanco, a spokeswoman for Bachelet, said of the new poll. “But we also reiterate the call to not take it for granted, to not fall victim to triumphalism, because the election will be decided at the polling booths.”
Bachelet’s strategy to date has been to keep a low media profile in favour of touring the country, meeting people and giving speeches in town plazas. She has been trying to persuade supporters to vote for her Nueva Mayoria coalition in congressional elections in order to ease the passage of her reforms through Congress, including a new Constitution for the country.
Electoral rules were changed last year to make voting voluntary, adding an element of doubt to the outcome, with polls suggesting disenchantment with politics is growing. The candidate for the incumbent Alianza coalition, Matthei, is tainted in the eyes of many Chileans by her family associations with the 1973-1990 Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, as well as disenchantment with the current right-wing administration of Sebastián Piñera.
She has struggled to garner much support since being nominated last July, although polls to date have suggested she would make it through to a second round.
An Ipsos poll last week showed Bachelet getting 32 percent of likely votes, with Matthei at 20 percent and Parisi at 14 percent.
In CEP’s last poll published in August, around 44 percent of those surveyed favoured Bachelet and 12 percent backed Matthei, although Matthei had only just been chosen as the right’s candidate at that time.
The latest survey took place before Matthei went on the offensive to counter a surge in support for Parisi, whose critiques of the political establishment have gone down well with young, urban professionals. A spat between the two has been the main feature of the campaign for the past two weeks.
The presidential candidates were set to participate in the first part of a two-night televised debate last night.
The CEP survey was conducted between September 13 and October 14, with 1,437 people polled. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points. It did not ask about voting intentions in a potential run-off.
Herald with Reuters