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.
x
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.
Reuters
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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Pope Beatifies Murdered Salvadoran Archbishop

Hundreds of thousands of worshippers converge on Salvadoran capital to witness papal declaration for late Oscar Romero - now one step from Roman Catholic sainthood
More

Scores Killed in Western Mexico Gunfight

Officials say almost every person killed in Michoacan state shootout was a suspected gang member
More

Latest US-Cuban Talks Ends in Washington

Both sides cite progress on restoring diplomatic ties, but no final agreement reached
More

Tutu Lends Support to Age Campaign

Help Age International has launched Action 2015 campaign
More

Colombia Kills 18 FARC Rebels

The bombing raid took place in the Cauca region of western Colombia
More

Lawmakers Question Normalization Effort With Cuba

On eve of next round of US-Cuba talks, Senator Bob Menendez calls engagement 'one-sided'
More