Even though outgoing socialist President Michelle Bachelet enjoys approval ratings of over 70 percent, voters seem to be growing weary of the Concertacion political alliance she represents.
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Center-right billionaire Sebastian Piñera held a strong lead in the polls going into Chile's presidential election Sunday, positioning the country's conservatives to take the reins from Chile's center-left alliance for the first time since 1990 when dictator Augusto Pinochet was forced to step down peacefully. But the clear frontrunner was not expected to win outright, putting the spotlight on the surprisingly strong wildcard candidacy of Marco Enriquez-Ominami, a young leftist who broke off from his party to run as an independent.
Even though outgoing socialist President Michelle Bachelet enjoys approval ratings of over 70 percent, voters seem to be growing weary of the Concertacion political alliance she represents. And while Mr. Enriquez-Ominami is polling behind both the traditional parties on the right and the left, the fact that he could face one in a runoff is being watched as a potential advancement for Chilean democracy.
“The main problem of Chile is not the transition to democracy but the consolidation of democracy,” says Ricardo Israel, a political expert at the Autonomous University of Chile. A third party brings competition to the race, he says, that “obligates” the traditional parties to react, even after the race. “I hope that this election helps create a more vigorous democracy.”