May 24, 2013
Low turnout at Chile’s municipal elections
SANTIAGO — Millions of Chileans voted yesterday in nationwide municipal elections that could set the stage for next year’s presidential race.
Although official figures were not available at press time last night, local newspaper El Mercurio said the ruling party was set to lose various important communes across the country, including Concepción, Santiago, Providencia, La Reina, Ñuñoa, Recoleta, Huechuraba and Independencia.
Analysts expected yesterday’s vote to serve as a test to where the heart of the electorate lies just weeks before the campaign for Chile’s presidency formally begins. Any would-be candidates have to give up their political posts a year ahead of the November 17, 2013 vote.
The nation has been roiled by more than a year of mass protests over education and environmental policies that brought millions of young demonstrators into the streets, and only about a third of voters approve of the job that conservative President Sebastián Piñera has done since taking office in 2010.
But polls say there’s even less support for remnants of the centre-left Concertación coalition that governed Chile for 20 years after democracy was restored in 1990.
Polls by the Centre for Public Studies suggested more than 40 percent of voters would stay home yesterday, compared to 32 percent in the last municipal elections.
That lack of enthusiasm for Chile’s main political forces fed uncertainty ahead of the elections for 354 mayors offices and 3,224 local council seats, which are currently divided evenly between left and right.
There is also uncertainty because of changes in voting rules that have swelled the number of registered voters to 13.4 million from 8.1 million.
Yesterday’s most closely watched race was in Santiago. Mayor Pablo Zalaquett of the right-wing Independent Democratic Union party, who personally authorized police crackdowns when protests turned violent, faced Carolina Toha, who courted students after serving as spokeswoman for the previous president, Michelle Bachelet.
Herald with AP, news outlets