Michelle Bachelet set for return as Chilean president, but faces run-off

Former leader forced to a run-off after forming awkward deal with communists

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 8:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 8:30pm


Michelle Bachelet, president of Chile from 2006 to 2010, has far outpolled her opponents for the office in the election, after campaigning on promises of major changes in education, health, social security and taxes.

But she fell short of the majority needed to avoid a run-off election in December.

With 99 per cent of ballots counted, Bachelet, of the centre-left New Majority alliance, had 47 per cent of the vote, followed by Evelyn Matthei, an economist backed by the conservative Alliance political bloc that now governs the country, who had 25

per cent.

"Chile has voted for our proposals for a more modern and just country," Bachelet, 62, told cheering crowds in Santiago on Sunday night. "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."

There were nine official candidates in the race for president, three of them women. The incumbent, Sebastian Piqera, could not run because the constitution bars presidents from serving consecutive terms. Voters were also choosing members of Congress and regional councils.

After she left the presidency, Bachelet, a physician and Socialist Party member, served as the first director of a United Nations body called UN Women. She resigned in March and returned to Chile to seek the nomination of her centre-left Concertacion coalition, which she won in a primary.

The coalition then struck an uncomfortable New Majority alliance with the Communist Party in an effort to broaden support for its programme. The New Majority programme calls for free universal higher education within six years, changes to the country's privatised pension system (though not a total overhaul), improvements to the public health system and, to pay for it all, higher corporate taxes and elimination of tax deferrals for companies.

Some observers think it won't be enough. Manuel Riesco of Cenda, a research institution, said new tax revenue would cover only the cost of pension changes. "There won't be enough for education or health," he said.