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October 23, 2014
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Presidential runoff in Chile; Bachelet to win

Presidential candidates Michelle Bachelet, right, and Evelyn Matthei, left, wave before the start of a debate at a television station in Santiago, Chile, on Tuesday.

Concerns over today’s voter turnout in light of New Majority’s overwhelming lead

SANTIAGO — 13.5 million Chileans are eligible to vote today in the second round of presidential elections between oppositionleader Michelle Bachelet and governing party member Evelyn Mathhei, with the former president widely considered the frontrunner and thus the biggest uncertainty is the percentage of citizens that choose to participate in the elections.

Bachelet, who already governed between 2006 and 2010, obtained 46.7 percent of the vote in the first round on November 17 with the promise of a profound tax reform that would allow, amongs other things, to finance the restructuring of the Chilean educational system along with a Constitutional reform. Problems in the education system had been one of the main thorns in Sebastián Piñera’s side.

The ruling right-wing Alianza, comprised of the National Renewal (RN) and the Independent Democratic Union (UDI), faces with Matthei the challenge of improving the 25 percent of the vote that it obtained in the first round with the promise of maintaining the policies of the current government. To do so, the Alianza absolutely must gain new voters.

Assuming that the uncertainty about the winner has been settled, given Bachelet’s apparently strong position, the main doubt that remains is whether the two competing visions for Chile will be enough to mobilize the electorate to reduce the absenteeism of over 50 percent registered in the first round, roughly equivalent to six million Chilean citizens who did not vote.

Key to understanding this phenomenon is the fact that for the first time Chileans were able to vote without previously having registered in the electoral records. Until the previous elections anyone seeking to participate in the election had to first register and were then obliged to participate.

Mauricio Morales, political scientist at the Universidad Diego Portales, said that “Bachelet’s great enemy is absenteeism, not because her leadership is in doubt nor the result, but the volume of support that the winner will receive en route to assuming power in March 2014.”

Jorge Ramírez, the political scientist for Liberty and Development (LD) noted that for “Michelle Bachelet it is problematic that she be elected with a low turnout because inevitably there will be a tendency to question her leadership” while also recognizing that for the candidate for the Alianza a lowturnout is also unfavourable, given that greater the difference the greater will be the damage for the centre-right.

The New Majority is an updated version of the Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia that governed between 1990 and 2010, comprised of the Socialist Party (PS), the Christian Democracts

(DC), the Party for Democracy (PPD) and the Radical Social-Democrat Party (PRSD). Those four groups were joined by New Majority, the Communist Party of Chile (PCCh), the Izquierda Ciudadana (IC), Movimiento Amplio Social (MAS) and independente sectores of the centre-left.

Meanwhile, the Alianza remains a union between the UDI, close to the ideology of dictator Augusto Pinochet and RN, made up of conservatives and liberals not sympathetic to the dictatorship of 1973-1990.

A heavy defeat for the centre-right would have as a secondaryeffect the retirement of UDI figures personally linked to Pinochet.

As in the first round and as informed by Chile’s Electoral Service, 13,573,143 Chileans are eligible to vote between 8:00am and 6:00pm at the 2,012 polling stations that have been set up throughout the country.

Herald with Télam

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