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Candidates court the gay vote in a tight presidential contest

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2009-12-11

Challenged by an independent candidate who supports civil unions, conservative Catholics Sebastian Pinera (at left) and Edouardo Frei Ruiz are vying for gay votes in Chile's tight presidential race.

Gay couples holding hands and lesbians kissing on primetime television were unheard of in Chile. But, ahead of the first round of the presidential election on Dec. 13, mainstream candidates Sebastian Pinera and Edouardo Frei Ruiz have spiced up the lacklustre Chilean presidential race with their campaign adverts on gay rights.

The conservative Catholic politicians, both in their sixties, are making unprecedented efforts to win over the gay vote, a rare phenomenon in one of the most traditionally Catholic countries in Latin America.

In a television spot, right-wing billionaire Pinera appears standing next to a gay couple holding hands. Speaking on their behalf, the candidate calls on viewers to accept and respect their rights. In a televised debate in November, Pinera said he was in favour of a civil union for gay couples and said he would happily include homosexuals in his government and the country’s army.

Former president and Christian Democrat candidate Eduardo Frei Ruiz is using an advert of a lesbian couple kissing, after which one of the women says: “We deserve the same rights as everyone.”

The two sides are pushing hard to appeal to a younger generation that is gravitating toward a flashy political newcomer, independent centre-left candidate Marco Enriquez-Ominami, who in 2008 introduced legislation in Congress to legalise civil unions.

Date created : 2009-12-09

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