Chile’s be­lea­guered prez faces test in lo­cal polls

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Chilean Pres­i­dent Michelle Bachelet faces a test of strength to­day in mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions that will serve as a po­lit­i­cal barom­e­ter with just over a year to go in her term. The lo­cal polls are the last vote be­fore general elec­tions in 2017 that will de­cide the So­cial­ist leader’s suc­ces­sor, at a time when the left in Chile — as in much of Latin Amer­ica-is strug­gling.

The vote comes as Bachelet, Chile’s first woman pres­i­dent, has been sideswiped by a cor­rup­tion scan­dal in­volv­ing her son and is strug­gling to de­liver on the re­form agenda that got her elected by a land­slide in 2013. Opin­ion polls give Bachelet’s cen­ter-left coali­tion a ra­zor-thin lead go­ing into the polls, which will elect 346 may­ors, plus city coun­cils. The elec­tions serve as the un­of­fi­cial open­ing of the 2017 cam­paign sea­son.

Af­ter test­ing the po­lit­i­cal wa­ters in the lo­cal polls, the coun­try’s par­ties will nom­i­nate their pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates and launch their cam­paigns. On the left, the top name cur­rently be­ing floated is Is­abel Al­len­de­not to be con­fused with her dis­tant rel­a­tive of the same name, who is a best-sell­ing nov­el­ist. She is a sen­a­tor and the daugh­ter of for­mer pres­i­dent Sal­vador Al­lende, who was over­thrown by late dic­ta­tor Au­gusto Pinochet in a 1973 coup. Jour­nal­ist and in­de­pen­dent Sen­a­tor Ale­jan­dro Guil­lier also scores well in opin­ion polls. And for­mer pres­i­dent Ri­cardo Lagos (2000-2006) has thrown his hat in the ring, too. On the right, for­mer pres­i­dent Se­bas­tian Pin­era (2010-2014) is tipped as the likely nom­i­nee, but has yet to de­clare his candidacy.

Cor­rup­tion, slow­down

Bachelet, 65, is one of the last re­main­ing lead­ers from a “pink tide” of left-wing gov­ern­ments that swept Latin Amer­ica in the last decade. She served a first term from 2006 to 2010, and-con­sti­tu­tion­ally barred from im­me­di­ate re-elec­tion-re­turned in 2014. But her pop­u­lar­ity has plunged since ac­cu­sa­tions emerged last year that her son and his wife used po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence and in­side in­for­ma­tion to make $5 mil­lion on a shady real es­tate deal. — AFP

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