December 10, 2013
Bachelet takes punches at presidential debate
SANTIAGO — Opposition candidate Michelle Bachelet, who holds a comfortable lead ahead of the Chilean presidential election on November 17, held firm as her rivals attacked her from all angles during the presidential debate that aired on Tuesday night on Chilean television.
Though the two-hour question and answer session didn’t leave room for dialogue, the other eight presidential candidates didn’t miss the opportunity to attack the former president, who — according to a poll released this week — could have just enough votes to win in the first round of voting.
Bachelet chose to ignore her rivals’ punches, even when the rest spoke to her directly.
“Today, we are doing better than any other Latin American country. Don’t throw that away, don’t get into projects that have already failed in the past,” ruling-party candidate Evelyn Matthei told her.
Bachelet, who announced her policy proposals on Sunday, avoided saying if she would seek to form a constituent assembly to reform the country’s Constitution.
“We are evaluating different options and we will see which one we choose once we see how strong we are in Parliament,” she said.
Among her proposals, Bachelet has vowed to overhaul the tax system to be able to finance free and quality education — a demand voiced by the thousands of protesters who have repeatedly complicated President Sebastián Piñera’s term-in-office — and has promised to replace the Constitution imposed by dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1980.
The former president represents a broad coalition that ranges from the centrist Christian Democrat Party to the leftist Communist Party. While the centrists don’t want to reform the Constitution, the Communists are pressing to have it replaced.
The team backing rightist candidate Matthei says Bachelet’s plan will halt Chile’s growth and create unemployment.
During the forum, Matthei promised a minimum wage of 300,000 Chilean pesos (the equivalent of US$590) and vowed to increase pensions. She also said she would increase the number of nurses and doctors working in Chile’s most remote areas.
The presidential debate took place just hours after CEP, the market’s most well-known pollster, said 47 percent of Chileans would vote for Bachelet if elections were to take place this Sunday, while only 14 percent would vote for Matthei.
Independent right-wing candidate Franco Parisi is in third place, with 10 percent of vote intentions.
The remaining candidates are: Marco Enríquez-Ominami, Roxana Miranda, Alfredo Sfeir, Tomás Jocely-Holt, Ricardo Israel and Marcel Claude.
After CEP’s conclusions were released on Tuesday, Matthei’s spokeswoman Lily Pérez downplayed the results and said the pollster usually takes eight to 10 points off the right’s numbers.
Two weeks ago, two separate polls suggested that Bachelet might have to face a runoff against Matthei because she didn’t have enough votes for an absolute majority.
Herald with AP, online media