Four months before Chile’s November 17 presidential elections, conservative candidate Pablo Longueira has dropped out of the race, leaving the country’s right-wing coalition fractured and virtually guaranteeing the reelection of former President Michelle Bachelet.
In a televised news conference, one of Longueira’s sons announced that his father was ending his campaign for mental health reasons. “After the election in the primaries, following some days of rest, his health deteriorated due to medically diagnosed depression,” said Juan Pablo Longueira.
A member of the right-wing Independent Democratic Union (UDI) party, Longueira received the backing of the conservative Alliance for Chile coalition after beating National Renovation (RN) candidate Andres Allamand in the Alliance’s primary elections on June 30. In the wake of the announcement, it is unclear who will succeed Longueira in November. The coalition’s leadership is expected to discuss the matter this week, and has until mid-August to declare a candidate.
But with no clear successor, it may be unable to agree on a single candidate. According to news site The Clinic, the UDI is unlikely to support Allamand, who distanced himself from the Alliance after losing the primary. Labor Minister Evelyn Matthei, whose name has come up as a potential successor in the UDI, told EFE that the right-wing coalition’s next move was uncertain. “This has been a huge political upheaval. We have to go back to square one. There might be a new primary, or there may be two candidates,” said Matthei. La Tercera reports that in addition to Allamand and Matthei, former public works minister Laurence Golborne (who dropped out of the race in April amidst a financial scandal) is seen as another option.
The disarray on the right stands in stark contrast to the left-wing Concertacion coalition, which has firmly rallied around Bachelet. The former president has wide public support, with polls earlier this month giving her a 14-point lead over Longueira. Considering that she received over 3 million votes in the Concertacion’s primaries -- almost twice as many as Longueira and Allamand combined -- it is unlikely that the conservatives will be able to effectively challenge her in the next four months.
Her popular mandate has allowed Bachelet to adopt a more reformist platform, and in April she claimed she would be open to holding a constitutional assembly to reform Chile’s Pinochet-era constitution. Although earlier this month El Mostrador reported that she had placed some distance between herself and the idea of holding a referendum, she has assembled a team of experts across Chile’s left to outline reform proposals, which is expected to submit a report in September.
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