Tuesday, 17 December 2013 00:09
REUTERS: Michelle Bachelet was elected as Chile’s President again on Sunday in a landslide victory that hands the centre-leftist the mandate she sought to push ahead with wide-reaching reforms.
Bachelet won with about 62% support, the highest proportion of votes any presidential candidate has obtained since Chile returned to holding democratic elections in 1989.
Evelyn Matthei, the conservative candidate of the ruling Alianza coalition, conceded defeat after capturing just 38% of the vote, the right’s worst performance in two decades.
Bachelet’s supporters waved flags and sounded car horns outside the La Moneda presidential palace.
Bachelet, who led Chile between 2006 and 2010 as its first female leader, will look to capitalise on her resounding win to make changes aimed at redressing persistent inequality in the world’s top copper exporter.
A physician by training, Bachelet is a moderate socialist and has promised 50 reforms in her first 100 days, once she takes office in March.
Her flagship policy is a hike in corporate taxes to 25% from 20%, to pay for social reforms that include a gradual move to free higher education.
“I am happy with the result and victory and I shall be a president for everyone in Chile,” Bachelet said as she received a congratulatory telephone call from outgoing President Sebastian Pinera.
Bachelet’s large margin of victory will come as a relief, if not a surprise.
Approval ratings for Bachelet, loved by many Chileans for her warm and personable style, were sky-high at the end of her first term.
Constitutionally barred from seeking immediate re-election in 2009, she was the runaway favourite to win this year’s vote since before she even launched her candidacy.
But it has not all been plain sailing. Her campaign suffered a setback last month, when the presence of eight other candidates fractured the first round vote and left her just short of the majority needed to seal the election outright.
Her opponent, Matthei, a brusque former labor minister, was a last-minute choice for Alianza in July and struggled to gain traction against Bachelet.