News / Americas

Chile Presidential Election Under Way

Chilean left-leaning opposition presidential candidate Michelle Bachelet shows her ballot during the presidential election in Santiago, Nov. 17, 2013.Chilean left-leaning opposition presidential candidate Michelle Bachelet shows her ballot during the presidential election in Santiago, Nov. 17, 2013.
Chilean left-leaning opposition presidential candidate Michelle Bachelet shows her ballot during the presidential election in Santiago, Nov. 17, 2013.
Chilean left-leaning opposition presidential candidate Michelle Bachelet shows her ballot during the presidential election in Santiago, Nov. 17, 2013.
Chileans began voting on Sunday for the president who will lead the country for the next four years, with ex-leader Michelle Bachelet considered a shoo-in and the biggest question being whether she wins outright or needs to wait for a December runoff.
The center-left Bachelet has promised to narrow the worst income inequality in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) by leveling the playing field in education. She has also pledged to upend a constitution that dates back to Augusto Pinochet's 17-year dictatorship.
Her Nueva Mayoria coalition, which spans the political spectrum from Communists to moderate Christian Democrats, must also win big in congressional elections on Sunday in order to muster the political might needed to implement those changes.
Trailing a distant second to the 62-year-old Bachelet in the polls is Evelyn Matthei, 60, the candidate for the governing right-wing Alianza coalition.
A candidate winning over half the votes would be elected outright - something that has not happened in 20 years. Otherwise, the two top contenders will go head to head on Dec. 15.
One recent poll of likely voters suggested Bachelet may get the votes she needs for a first-round victory.
But other polls have shown that support for eight other candidates, including Matthei, maverick economist Franco Parisi and former socialist congressman Marco Enriquez-Ominami, could fracture the vote and push Bachelet into a second round against Matthei.
“We have said that we would like to win in the first round because there's lots that needs to be done,” said Bachelet, as she cast her vote in the capital Santiago on Sunday morning.
“But we know that there are nine candidates... but obviously we would like to win in the first round.”
In any case, pollsters and political analysts believe  Bachelet would easily win a runoff against Matthei. Bachelet, who held the presidency from 2006 to 2010, was constitutionally barred from seeking immediate re-election after her first term, but left office enjoying extremely high popularity.
The Andean country, the world's top copper producer, moved to a voluntary voting system from a compulsory one last year, injecting a dose of uncertainty into electoral forecasts.
All 120 lower house seats and 20 out of 38 Senate seats are also being contested on Sunday. Under the Chilean system, the governing coalition needs more than a simple majority to pass some kinds of legislation, making it easier for the opposition to block key reforms - a Pinochet-era legacy that Bachelet wants to change.
In a bid to curb Alianza's power, Bachelet has been urging voters to back her coalition's congressional candidates.
Road to presidential palace
Bachelet proposes to raise corporate taxes to 25 percent from their current 20 percent and close a business tax loophole to finance an education overhaul. Matthei contends that could hurt economic growth and slow corporate investments.
Chile has boasted average annual economic growth of over 5 percent and made enormous headway toward eradicating extreme poverty in the more than 20 years since the return to democracy.
But the mining powerhouse - home to a third of global copper output and some of the region's most powerful companies, including LATAM Airlines, retailer Cencosud  and industrial conglomerate Empresas Copec - still has work to do to join the ranks of developed countries.
Its highly stratified education system was at the heart of student protests that exploded in 2011 to demand free and improved schooling, shaking the political and business elite. Camila Vallejo, who shot to fame as the face of the student movement, is running for a seat in the lower house on Sunday.
“Inequality is Chile's huge scar,” Bachelet told a flag-waving crowd at the close of her campaign on Thursday. “It's our main obstacle and the stone in our shoe when we really think about becoming a modern country.”
Bachelet's down-to-earth, affable manner and her personal history, which is intimately tied to the nation's tumultuous past, have helped propel her past Matthei.
Bachelet and her father were victims of torture during the Pinochet years, while Matthei's father was a general in the dictatorship's 1973-1990 junta.
That association, along with Matthei's penchant for off-the-cuff expletives, her late entry into the presidential race and public disenchantment with incumbent President Sebastian Pinera, has hurt the right-wing candidate's chances.
“This was a very short campaign, we had to hit the ground running,” said Matthei to a throng of reporters after she voted on Sunday.
“We are pretty sure we will go to a second round but at the end of the day, the best - in fact the only - poll that matters is today's.”
Voting began at 8 a.m. local time and will continue to 6 p.m. (1100 to 2100 GMT). The first partial results are scheduled to be reported by the national electoral service at 7:30 p.m. (2230 GMT) or when 20 percent of votes have been counted. 

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

IOC Leaders to Discuss Mexico Dispute Next Month

The International Olympic Committee said Friday the issue of government interference in Mexico will be reviewed by its policy-making executive board at its Dec. 8-10 meeting in Lausanne

Hurricane Sandra Loses Strength Off Mexican Coast

Now a Category 3 storm in the Pacific with winds of 195 kph, it's expected to weaken to a tropical storm Friday night

Ecuador to Impose Visa Requirements on Cuban Citizens

Objective is 'to discourage the flow of people seeking to reach the United States,' Ecuador's deputy foreign minister says

Destruction of Brazil's Amazon Forest Jumps 16 Percent in 2015

More than 5,800 square kilometers of forests were cleared during the 12 months ending in July, the government confirms — an area half the size of Puerto Rico

Local Opposition Leader Shot Dead in Venezuela

Armed assailants in vehicle shoot Luis Diaz, head of Democratic Action party, in Altagracia de Orituco in central Venezuela

Brazil Corruption Probe Widens; Bank CEO, Senate Leader Arrested

Detentions on orders from Supreme Court raise stakes in bribery scandal that now threatens heights of Brazilian banking and politics