September 4, 2017 / 12:55 PM / a year ago

Chile presidential hopeful Pinera keeps lead, runoff tight: poll

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Conservative presidential candidate Sebastian Pinera is maintaining a wide lead in the polls ahead of Chile’s November election, though the race to challenge him in a potential runoff is tight, according to a monthly survey released on Monday.

Sebastian Pinera, former Chile's President and current presidential candidate, poses for a picture during an interview with Reuters in Santiago, Chile August 11, 2017. REUTERS/Pablo Sanhueza

Pinera, who was president of the copper-producing country between 2010 and 2014, captured 34 percent of voter intentions in the survey by GfK Adimark, up from 32 percent last month.

His leftist opposition is split between two leading candidates, making it likely that Pinera would face a tougher challenge in a probable second round run-off in December.

Beatriz Sanchez, the candidate for the hard-left Frente Amplio bloc, received 15 percent of the support, while 16 percent of Chileans chose center-left Alejandro Guillier.

That was only slightly changed from Adimark’s last survey released in August, when Sanchez registered 17 percent support, and Guillier 16 percent. As the margin of error of the poll is 3 percentage points, the two candidates are technically tied.

A Pinera win would be welcomed by the Chilean business community, which blames current President Michelle Bachelet and her center-left coalition of stoking market uncertainty in one of Latin America’s most free-market economies.

But it would disappoint Bachelet’s base, as well as a younger generation of Chileans who are demanding deep changes to the structure of the nation’s politics and economics.

Other polls have suggested that the run-off vote would likely be much closer than the first round vote, but that Pinera would likely prevail.

The survey also showed that support for President Bachelet jumped from 32 to 35 percent from last month. However, the poll was taken before the mass resignation of Bachelet’s economic team at the end of August, which could have dented her popularity.

Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Hugh Bronstein and Gram Slattery; Editing by Bill Trott and Nick Zieminski

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