Chilean polls have opened, allowing approximately 14 million voters to choose a successor to President Michelle Bachelet and new legislators.
Chile Heads to the Polls Amid Discontent
Eight presidential candidates, along with 155 members of the lower house and half of the Senate will contest the polls. A total of 42,890 polls stations will be up and running across the country. Additionally, approximately 38,000 voters qualified for the early polls.
Conservative billionaire and former President Sebastian Pinera is viewed as the frontrunner, with the greater part of the right-wing united behind him. While the left is split between supporting the governing New Majority coalition and the Broad Front coalition.
Earlier, a group of protesters protested outside Pinera’s campaign headquarters and shouted that the candidate "is the symbol of corruption" and "has turned his back on the Chileans." Police have already cleared the protest.
Pinera served from 2010-2014. Former journalist Alejandro Guillier, of Bachelet’s ruling party, is considered to be Pinera’s most formidable competition, according to analysts.
A Pinera victory will add Chile to the growing list of South America countries, following Argentina, Brazil, and Peru, with conservative leaders.
Turnout in recent Chilean elections has been abysmally low, with only 43 percent participating in the 2013 general elections and a lowly 13 percent going to polls for the recent primaries.
However, the government has attempted to address the issue, launching campaigns to engage the public and circulate messages with slogans such as “Come on, don’t get lost!”
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Even the metro in cities like Santiago and Valparaiso announced that they won’t charge the fare for those who are going to vote, to promote a higher voter turnout.
Chileans in 62 countries around the world also voted for these elections, ahead of the normal elections in the country.
Bachelet won the 2013 elections with 63 percent of the votes.