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Chile: Presidential debate follows release of latest poll data

Presidential debate follows release of latest poll data; Government releases list of randomly-selected poll workers; Chile honours the dead on All Saints Dayscl201310250801spr32464lg

Presidential debate follows release of latest poll data

This week saw Chile’s nine presidential candidates face off in a two-part debate sponsored by the National Television Association (Asociación Nacional de Televisión–Anatel). The debate began on Tuesday, 29 October and continued the following night. Because former president and current front-runner Michelle Bachelet skipped the campaign season’s first debate, Tuesday marked the first time that all nine of the candidates were together in front of the camera.

Only hours before Tuesday’s debate Chile’s central polling agency, the Centre for Public Studies (Centro de Estudios Públicos–CEP) released its latest polling data. The CEP poll results showed former president Michelle Bachelet well ahead, garnering 47% of respondents’ votes. Right-leaning Evelyn Matthei followed with 14%, while independent candidate Franco Parisi trailed with 10%.

If Bachelet were to achieve 50% of the votes on 17 November she could win re-election without continuing to a second round of votes, something no candidate has managed to do since 1993, when Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei won in the first round against his opponent on the right.

Tuesday’s debate began with a discussion of crime and security. Matthei argued for a law against ‘encapuchados,’ hooded protesters believed to be anarchists who are often responsible for violence at protests and demonstrations.

On Wednesday the focus was on health and education, with much discussion of whether higher education should be made entirely free for Chileans.

The eight other candidates focused most of their critiques on Bachelet, citing concerns about her performance during her first term in office.

In the wake of the poll results and the debate, Matthei and Parisi are continuing their battle for second place. If the election goes to a second round, whichever candidate comes in second place will have the opportunity to face off against Bachelet in round two.

The debates ended in scandal for Parisi when his campaign spokesman Patricio Mery was thrown out of the premises by security guards following an altercation between Mery and journalists. Parisi fired Mery the following day.

On Wednesday Parisi made good on his promise to sue Matthei for defamation related to debts owed by Parisi’s family to employees of the schools they administer. Still, members of the Matthei strategy team told reporters for Chilean newspaper La Tercera that their candidates’ feud with Parisi has boosted her approval ratings and hurt Parisi’s. Matthei responded coolly to news of the suit, saying, ‘My lawyers are handling it.’

With just two weeks until the election, Bachelet will be racing to 50% as Matthei and Parisi continue to fight amongst themselves.

Government releases list of randomly-selected poll workers

On 26 October Chile’s National Election Service (Servicio Electoral–Servel) released the names of those Chileans randomly selected to serve as poll workers and vote counters on Election Day, 17 November. Those who saw their names on the list had until the 30th to ask to be excused from their duties.

Servel only accepts a limited number of excuses. Those who are over 70 years old, absent from the country, pregnant, mothers of young children, hospital workers, or disabled beg out of their duties without paying fines. The exception for pregnant women and mothers of young children was only confirmed at the last minute.

After this appeals process SERVEL published a final, definitive list of names on 2 November. Anyone from the final list who does not show up to his or her polling station on the 17th will face fines ranging from 79,500 to 318,000 pesos. Poll workers will receive a payment of 20,000 pesos.

Chile honours the dead on All Saints Day

Over a million people visited Santiago’s cemeteries for Friday’s All Saints Day, which many of the nation’s traditional Catholics spend honouring dead loved ones. Santiago’s largest cemetery offered a special Mexican culture demonstration on Friday, as well as a tour of the tombs of notables such as former president Eduardo Frei.

While Chile’s 1 November celebrations are less internationally famous–and less colourful–than their counterparts in Mexico and Central America, the celebrations are un-missable for many. Two sisters told La Tercera reporters that the holiday ‘is part of us and part of our culture.’

The Santiago metropolitan area transit authority added special bus routes to accommodate the added volume of passengers to and from the region’s cemeteries. This year, some Chileans even traveled to cemeteries a day early to beat the crowds.

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