Bachelet wins primary in Chile presidential bid

Photo: AFP

Former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet (pictured) handily won her left-leaning coalition’s primaries on Sunday, paving the way for a new presidential bid with national elections less than six months away.


Left-wing leader Michelle Bachelet easily won presidential primaries in Chile on Sunday, claiming around 73% of votes and confirming she is the frontrunner in the South American country’s elections in November.

Bachelet, 61, who was Chile’s first female president, between 2006 and 2010, appeared before cheering supporters after her coalition rivals, Andres Velasco and Claudio Orrego, conceded defeat.

“We’ll keep fighting until November 17 to get to the Moneda (presidential palace) in 2014,” Bachelet said.

She will now get the chance to form her second national government and carry her left-leaning Concertación coalition  – one of the two main coalitions in Chile – back into power after a four-year absence.

The daughter of a general tortured to death for opposing the regime of dictator Augusto Pinochet, Bachelet was a paediatrician before turning to politics.

A member of Chile’s Socialist Party, she had been serving as the head of United Nations’ gender equality body before her new bid to reclaim the presidency.

Observers said she was well on her way to a first-round victory on November 17. However, a second round of voting is scheduled for mid-December if no candidate secures more than half of all ballots.

In such a contest, she would likely face former economy minister Pablo Longueira, who also won his primary race on Sunday and will represent the conservative Alianza coalition of President Sebastian Pinera.

Longueira took 51.35% of votes, edging out former defence minister Andres Allamand who received 48.64% of votes, according to preliminary figures.

Pinera, a millionaire businessman who broke 20 years of uninterrupted centre-left rule when he took power in 2010, is barred from running for immediate re-election.

Swinging to the left

While Bachelet is expected to largely continue to keep the market-friendly economic policies of Chile’s recent past, the presidential hopeful appeared to be returning with a programme more deeply rooted on the left.

She has pledged to raise corporate taxes to fund free university-level education and push for a new constitution to replace the one created under Pinochet in 1980.

Some of her other proposed social policies include legalizing abortion in some cases and authorizing gay marriage, moves that would mark a big change in the socially conservative South American country.

While the copper-rich country has been one of the most economically stable in the region, it is also the most unequal of the OECD countries.

“Today's triumph is not the victory of one person, but of millions of Chileans,” Bachelet said on Sunday. “It's the triumph of the demand for education that is free, dignified and of quality for every child.”

(France 24 with wires)

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