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December 20, 2014

CHILE’S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Infighting grips Chilean right as vote nears

Presidential candidate of the Chilean conservative right-wing bloc Evelyn Matthei is welcomed by her supporters during a campaign event in Santiago, yesterday.

Renovación leader Carlos Larraín says Matthei’s candidacy was the result of ‘mistakes’

SANTIAGO — Carlos Larraín, the president of Renovación Nacional (one of the two parties that form the ruling coalition Alianza), considered yesterday that “it was a big mistake” to remove former minister Laurence Golborne as the right’s presidential candidate.

Golborne, who won the right’s primaries, was forced to quit the race in April after local media revealed he had several undeclared bank accounts in the British Virgin Islands, known as a fiscal paradise.

Larraín’s statement, made during an interview with Chilean newspaper La Tercera, comes as the ruling coalition’s candidate Evelyn Matthei struggles to narrow the gap between her and frontrunner Michelle Bachelet, who according to a recent poll may win the Presidency in the first round of voting next Sunday. It would be the first time since 1993 that the right fails to get a spot in the runoff.

According to the Public Studies Centre (CEP), Chile’s most respected pollster, Bachelet will take 47 percent of the vote, while Matthei will finish more than 30 percentage points behind, with 14 percent of the votes. CEP analysts believe Bachelet will easily get the absolute majority she needs to win in the first round once blank votes are taken out of the lot.

‘We should have left it

to the primaries’

A recent poll has shown that, despite the scandal, Golborne is still the most respected politician in the Chilean right, which is currently going through the worst crisis in its recent history. During the interview with La Tercera, Larraín considered that even in April the former minister was the right’s best chance to beat former president Bachelet.

“I think it was a mistake to remove Golborne as the candidate. We should have left it to the primaries. The primaries should have decided who was who,” Larraín said.

Former Economy minister Pablo Longueira (representing UDI) won the right’s primaries against Andrés Allamand (RN) but eventually quit the race because of health issues. Matthei was then named the right’s candidate.

‘The right needs

unity and loyalty’

Following Larraín’s statements yesterday, Golborne said that the right should imitate the Concertación — the centre-left coalition behind Bachelet’s candidacy — and “learn to compete without bleeding to death.”

“Nobody criticizes Bachelet, not even her hairdo...They are all uplifting the candidate. In our sector, it’s the complete opposite: we always end up resorting to destructive criticism,” Golborne said.

Regarding Matthei, Golborne considered “she is an excellent candidate” and said he felt “represented” by her.

He added that what the Chilean centre-right most needs is “unity and loyalty”.

Following Larraín’s statements, Matthei said that “he has he right to say what he wants” and claimed that the RN president’s assertions against her “won’t damage our friendship.”

Several Alianza officials refused to refer to the controversy sparked by Larraín yesterday and instead urged Chileans to cast their votes on Sunday to “help Matthei get to the runoff.”

The vote next Sunday will be the country’s first presidential election in which voting will be voluntary. Several pollsters have forecasted a low turnout and political parties have been calling on Chileans to exercise their right to vote.

In one of the last rallies prior to the closing of her campaign on Thursday, Bachelet yesterday urged her followers to back her on Sunday “so that we have more time to prepared for government.”

President Sebastián Piñera will hand over the Presidency to whoever wins next Sunday’s election (or the runoff scheduled for December) in March, 2014.

Herald with online media

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