| SANTIAGO, March 22
SANTIAGO, March 22 Chile's left-leaning
governing coalition is in disarray ahead of November's
presidential and congressional elections, leaving a clear path
to victory for the more organized conservative opposition,
lawmakers and analysts say.
On Tuesday night, Sebastian Pinera, who was Chile's
president from 2010 to 2014, declared his intention to run
again, representing the conservative Chile Vamos coalition. He
launched his bid at a lavish rally broadcast on primetime
Recent polls make him the frontrunner to win the vote, with
around 40 percent of support versus 30 percent for his nearest
rival, independent leftist Senator Alejandro Guillier.
Whereas the different strands of Chile Vamos appear to be
rallying behind Pinera, unity is proving elusive for the left.
As a result, the likelihood that Chile will follow other Latin
American countries with a tilt to the right in 2017 is rising.
The coalition of the left, previously the Concertacion, was
formed in 1988 as Chile returned to democracy after the dark
years of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. It has provided
every president since then, with the exception of Pinera's first
"There exists a risk for the first time that (the coalition)
could finish, bringing to an end a long 30-year cycle of its
grip on power," former center-left minister and political
veteran Sergio Bitar said.
President Michelle Bachelet's Nueva Mayoria coalition is
being pulled in different directions by its component parties,
which range from centrist Christan Democrats to Communists.
"Pinera's candidate announcement is showing up how the Nueva
Mayoria is very divided and how united the right is," Cristian
Monckeberg, the president of Pinera's center-right party, told
Reuters on Wednesday.
Riven by disagreements over policies such as loosening
Chile's strict abortion laws and reforming the labor code, and
emboldened by a 2015 electoral reform that will potentially make
it easier for parties outside a bloc to gain traction in
Congress, some on the left are suggesting they should bypass
nominating primaries in July.
"We Christian Democrats should take our candidate straight
to the first round. The (electoral reform) changes reality,"
tweeted former Christian Democrat leader Soledad Alvear earlier
But a split between the socially conservative Christian
Democrats and more progressive elements of the bloc would be
"the worst idea possible if they want to win the election," said
political scientist Kenneth Bunker.
The Christian Democrat candidate is Carolina Goic, who in
polls is trailing far behind Guillier, a former journalist who
entered politics in 2013. Ex-president Ricardo Lagos is also in
the running for the center-left vote, although he has struggled
to gain traction.
Others in the bloc are appealing for unity.
"I think that the best thing would be to go with one
candidate and not be divided in November's elections," Christian
Democrat senator Jorge Pizarro told Reuters this week.
"Divided, I think we will ease the triumph of the right."
(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien and Antonio de la Jara; Editing
by Alistair Bell)