THE BLOG
19/11/2013 06:18 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

Chile Election 2013: Bachelet Made to Wait for Presidency

Chile failed to return an outright victor in last night's general election. In an expected outcome, front-runner Michelle Bachelet of the centre-left "La Nueva Mayoría' coalition and Evelyn Matthei, leader of the ring-wing coalition, will go head to head in a second round of voting on 15th December.

It was a night that still threw up some shocks. Former Presidential Candidate, Laurence Golborne, lost his Senate seat, whilst the former student protest leaders won seats in the lower chamber of Congress - Giorgio Jackson of the 'Revolución Democrática' movement, and the Communists Camilla Vallejo and Karol Cariola all cantered to victory.

No Presidential candidate has won a Chilean general election at the first attempt since the country returned to democracy in 1990, and the task this year was made even more difficult by a total of nine candidates participating in the process.

Bachelet secured nearly 47% of the votes - almost double that of her nearest rival Matthei - and remains the overwhelming favourite in an election loaded with history and one seen as a potential game changer for Chilean politics.

Talk of a new democratic settlement abounds in the country, with the left eager to see the development of a more European, social democratic model that they hope can effectively deal with the inequality that blights this otherwise strong Latin American economy. The creation of a new constitution, reform of the tax system and better access to education are seen as key ways of achieving this. Former President and Bachelet supporter, Ricardo Lagos, commented in yesterday's La Tercera, one of the country's two main broadsheets that 'this is... a new type of politics and economics.'

It is an agenda that has seen a very stark line drawn in the electoral landscape. While the right may share similar end goals regarding overcoming inequality, their approach is inevitably very different - a new constitution and higher taxes on business are a definite 'no'. Each, they fear, could lead to potential instability and threaten Chile's so far stellar economic growth. However, if last night's result is anything to go by, their arguments will not secure them victory come December.

Bachelet and her campaign team have exuded an upbeat confidence this past week. Her closing rally in Santiago's grand park 'Quinta Normal' on Thursday evening was attended by 25,000 people and featured appearances from some of Chile's best known actors, comedians and musicians. The talk in her team has not been whether or not she would win, but rather whether she could pull off the impossible and obtain a historic election win in the first round of voting - thus adding to the club of women - Cristina Fernándes of Argentina and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil are the others - currently leading Latin America's most powerful economies.

Though last night's results have meant her staff will have to wait, spirits remain high with no major sense of disappointment. After addressing her supporters and international media outside her election evening base on Santiago's Avenida Libertador Bernado O'Higgins, she retired to the Hotel Plaza San Francisco where her campaign team and extended inner circle had congregated to see the night's results trickle in. The mood inside was positive, with glasses of champagne and pisco sours clinking to celebrate a perceived step closer to the Presidency, rather than to mull over a missed opportunity.

The challenge now will be to maintain this momentum until the final vote on 15th December.