External Affairs

Chile’s Election a Close Contest Between Left and Right

Leftist presidential candidate Alejandro Guillier poses for the media before meeting with members of the Socialist Party in Santiago, Chile April 11, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Ivan Alvarado

Leftist presidential candidate Alejandro Guillier poses for the media before meeting with members of the Socialist Party in Santiago, Chile April 11, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Ivan Alvarado

Santiago: A leftist senator running for president in Chile‘s November election is tied in a head-to-head match-up with the right’s front-runner, even as his support has slipped in recent months, a poll released on Thursday showed.

The survey by pollster MORI shows Alejandro Guillier, a leftist former television journalist, winning 33% of the vote in a potential runoff, with conservative ex-President Sebastian Pinera taking 32%. The remainder of participants did not respond, did not know who they would vote for, or said they would not cast a ballot.

Chile is set to hold the first round of its presidential election on November 19. If no candidate wins more the 50%, the top two will face off in a head-to-head match-up scheduled for December 17.

The one-percentage-point difference between the two candidates is within the poll‘s three percentage point margin of error and represents a slight slip for Guillier who had been winning head-to-head by five percentage points in December.

Still, it shows Chile‘s presidential election will likely be competitive, even as the Chilean stock market is beginning to price in a conservative win as Pinera enjoys the support of a unified right and a healthy first-round lead.

A victory for Guillier would likely mean a deepening of the social-democratic reforms initiated by outgoing leftist President Michelle Bachelet, while a Pinera presidency would mean a more free-market approach to governance.

In the first round, the poll showed Pinera taking 26% and Guillier taking 14%. That represents an improvement for Pinera, who was leading Guillier by just four percentage points in the December poll. Pinera also strengthened or established a lead in related questions, such as who respondents believe will be the next president, regardless of their personal preference.

A number of relatively minor hopefuls, such as the hard-left Beatriz Sanchez and populist conservative Manuel Jose Ossandon, have support in the mid-single-digits, according to the poll.

MORI surveyed 1,200 people face-to-face from March 28 to April 10.