January 23, 2018

They once worked at the same radio station, now Alejandro Guillier and Beatriz Sánchez are rivals

Friday, July 14, 2017

Two journalists make the headlines with bid to lead Chile’s left against Piñera

Beatriz Sánchez (left) and Alejandro Guillier.
Beatriz Sánchez (left) and Alejandro Guillier.
Beatriz Sánchez (left) and Alejandro Guillier.

SANTIAGO — Chile’s presidential election is heating up and two journalists have emerged as the main challengers to former president Sebastian Piñera hopes of winning the election, as one of the continent’s most stable and developed countries weighs the future of its political left.

Piñera, a conservative billionaire who handily won his party’s primary this month with 1.4 million ballots, is the clear front-runner ahead of the November 19 election and has 31 percent of intended votes, according to a poll published this week by Gfk Adimark.

The current battle is for second, and a place against Piñera in a December 17 run-off. Centre-left candidate Alejandro Guillier has 15 percent of votes and Beatriz Sánchez of the left-wing Frente Amplio (Broad Front), a new coalition, gained support over the past month and is technically tied with 13 percent, according to Gfk.

The campaign in coming months will therefore determine the policy course of the Chilean left after President Michelle Bachelet, who has encountered resistance to her tax-and-spend reform agenda that was meant to reduce inequality in the world’s top copper producer.

Guillier is ideologically aligned with Bachelet while Sánchez has sought to propel the energy of student and protest groups who want better health and education and are frustrated with Chile’s longstanding free-market model.

“They are in the same electoral spectrum and this foreshadows a very complex and tense situation,” said political analyst Guillermo Holzmann of the upcoming showdown.

Guillier, who has held a Senate seat since 2013, and Sánchez both launched their careers on radio, one of the most trusted media forms in Chile, and have even worked for the same station, ADN Radio Chile. Now the two will have to show their differences.

“Beatriz comes from opinion journalism, of analysis, of communication criticism,” her campaign manager Sebastian Depolo told Reuters. “Guillier has a journalism career but for four years he has been a senator, he is a member of the establishment.”

Still, with the ruling Nueva Mayoria (New Majority) coalition in disarray at the twilight of Bachelet’s rule and skipping this month’s primaries, Guillier in the last few weeks has had to resort to a very non-established kind of campaigning. He walked door-to-door aiming to collect the 33,000 signatures to ensure his place on the November ballot as an independent.

While support for Sánchez rose in recent weeks ahead of her coalition’s primary, Guillier lost six percentage points from a Gfk poll a month earlier. He acknowledges not competing in a primary was a setback but is betting the leftist coalition will eventually unify around him, despite his status as an independent.

Previously known as Concertación, the coalition has won every election in Chile since its return to democracy in 1988, except for Pinera’s first term in 2010. Bachelet, who is constitutionally banned from seeking a consecutive term, previously governed for the coalition from 2006 to 2010.

“We are going to be the ones in the big fight, because we have the backing of institutions, of the parties, of the independents,” Guillier told reporters this week. “We need to recover the rhythm and this week we will literally be campaigning because we don’t have the roadblock of not being in the primary.”

— Reuters

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