Chileans will return to the polls Sunday in a run-off presidential election between former head of state and conservative billionaire Sebastian Piñera and Alejandro Guillier of the center-left New Majority coalition.
The two were the front runners in the scheduled elections that took place Nov. 19, when Piñera took over 36 percent of the popular vote and Guiller took over 23 percent. This run-off stage will force a majority winner, though national pollsters say the race will be tight.
A survey conducted at the end of November by Criteria Research regarding the Chilean elections asked, "for which of these candidates would you vote?" Forty seven percent of those polled favored Piñera while 45 percent favored Guillier. Another eight percent declared they would cast a blank vote. A more recent poll, according to El Tiempo, shows that 21.4 percent of Chileans are still unsure of who they will vote for.
Mauricio Morales, director of the Center of Analysis at the University of Talca, said “this is one of biggest margins of uncertainty we’ve seen since (Chile’s) return to democracy.”
Without the presence of leftist candidate Beatriz Sanchez from the Broad Front coalition, who gained over 20 percent of votes in the first round of elections, pundits feel her supporters will side with Guiller on Sunday.
Guiller also got a campaign boost this week when he was endorsed by leftist former president of Uruguay, Jose "Pepe" Mujica, as well as left-leaning former candidates eliminated in the first round: Gabriel Boric and Giorgio Jackson.
Piñera, president from 2010 to 2014, has campaigned to implement neoliberal reforms, including laying off tens of thousands of public servants and closing down the Employment and Training Office. During a live national debate last Monday that focused on topical issues such as public safety and education, Piñera said that during his time in office, crime and drug trafficking was suppressed, but that it has increased since outgoing President Michelle Bachelet took office.
He called for "zero tolerance against delinquency and fighting drug trafficking head-on.” He said he wants to improve education and "return the right of parents to choose the education of their children."
Guiller, a former journalist and senator, is commonly viewed as a political “outsider." He has proposed to abolish charges on school tuitions because families saddled with debt are often unable to pay.
On the hotly-protested issue of national pensions, which have been dictated by the market economy since the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, Guiller said, "We need to end the monopoly of the established pension fund. Today, the imposition is required.”
He added, "This is an issue where we need to reach a national agreement. We need to combine several alternatives."
Piñera responded, "We will establish that all senior citizens have free transportation when they go to health checks.”