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Electoral campaign becomes polarized
Latinamerica Press
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Former socialist president Michelle Bachelet wins first round but must face right-wing Evelyn Matthei in December.

In an unprecedented situation in Latin America, two women with antagonistic political visions will face each other on December 15 in a second electoral round which will decide who will rule the country from 2014 until 2018. The former socialist president Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010), heading the center-left coalition New Majority, won the November 17 elections with 46.7 percent of the votes and will compete with the governing party’s candidate Evelyn Matthei, of the right-wing coalition Alliance, who obtained 25 percent of the votes. Alliance is made up of the two parties National Renewal and Independent Democratic Union.

Three women and six men, nine candidates participated in the first voluntary elections to choose a president, 20 out of 38 senators, 120 congressmen and 277 regional counselors. Only 6.5 million of the 13.3 million registered voters went to vote.

Leftist Marco Enríquez-Ominami finished in third place with 11 percent of votes, followed by independent Franco Parisi with 10.1 percent of votes. The remaining candidates, Marcel Claude, Alfredo Sfeir, Roxana Miranda, Ricardo Israel and Tomás Jocelyn-Holt, together had 7.1 percent of the votes.

After learning of the results, Bachelet declared that she will continue with the campaign “as we have done until now, with proposals, in a clean way and with joy.”

“We were so close to [winning] and we are going to work to win with a broad margin in December,” said Bachelet to her sympathziers.

Meanwhile, Matthei warned her followers that with a leftist government represented by Bachelet, the nation runs the risk of “losing progress and growth”.

New Majority — which includes the parties of the Consert of Parties for Democracy (Christian Democracy, Party for Democracy, Social Democrat Radical Party, Socialist Party, and now were joined by the Communist Party,  Citizen Left, and the Broad Social Movement) that governed Chile between 1990 and 2010 — will have the majority in both houses. It was able to place 67 of 120 congressmen and 12 senators of the 20 disputed seats, thus having 21 of the 38 Senate seats.

Proposed reforms
One of the pillars of Bachelet’s government program is an education reform that promises free and quality public education. In fact, four former student leaders who headed the student demonstrations of 2011 were elected congress members. These individuals are Gabriel Boric, Karol Cariola, Giorgio Jackson and Camila Vallejo, who is the youngest congresswoman of Parlament.

Bachelet has proposed a tax reform that includes increasing corporate taxes by 5 percent, more audits, and measures to fight tax evasion.

“Today Chilean men and women have voted for a tax reform that will allows us to make this huge transformation to our education system, but also improve our public health, our pension system, our social policies,” Bachelet pointed out.

She has also suggested a constitutional reform to the complex binominal electoral system inherited from the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (1973-90) that allows two candidates from each majority bloc and one candidate for each minority party to register. Only the candidate with the most votes from each majority bloc wins, unless the sum of the votes of the two candidates from one bloc exceeds by 50 percent the votes of the two candidates from the other bloc. The representatives of minority parties or independent candidates generally do not win because the system favors the majority blocs.

However, this reform requires the approval of three fifths of the Legislature (72 parliamentarians and 23 senators), meaning that Bachelet, if she wins the second round, will have to negotiate with legislators from opposing parties.
—Latinamerica Press.

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