Chile Election: Bachelet Is Far Ahead, But Will Face Runoff

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Victor R. Caivano

Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile from 2006 to 2010, is well on her way to an encore, winning 46.6 percent of the vote in Sunday's presidential election.

While Bachelet won nearly twice as many votes as her closest rival, Bachelet will face-off in a runoff with Evelyn Matthei.

The New York Times reports that Bachelet ran on a platform of change, which calls for free, universal higher education, improvements to the healthcare system and raising taxes on corporations.

"Chile has voted for our proposals for a more modern and just country," Bachelet, 62, said according to the Times. "People have voted for free and quality education, for an end to profit, for more integration and opportunities for our children. Chileans have voted for a tax reform to enable the needed reforms in public health, pensions, social policies, and for those who have more to contribute as they should."

The Los Angeles Times reports that Matthei, who served under current President Sebastián Piñera, has been unable to capitalize on a booming economy and a low unemployment rate.

The Times adds:

"Political science professor Patricio Navia of Diego Portales University in Santiago said that a majority of Chileans believe the country is better off than when Piñera took office but 'don't see him as reflecting Chile's diversity.'

"'People perceive Piñera as governing for the wealthy, not all Chileans, and that the economic progress has been unevenly distributed,' Navia said. 'That's despite the fact he expanded the social safety net to include six months of maternity leave for women.'"

The runoff is set for Dec. 15. The Guardian provides this personal nugget connecting both candidates:

"Bachelet and Matthei were childhood friends and neighbors, but found themselves on opposite sides after Chile's 1973 military coup, when Matthei's father ran the military school where General Alberto Bachelet, Michelle's father, was tortured to death for remaining loyal to ousted president Salvador Allende.

"Both families have said General Matthei had no direct involvement in Bachelet's father's death and the two women have remained cordial over the years while they rose through political ranks on the right and left."

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