November 7, 2013 / 9:45 PM / in 6 years

Bachelet lead firm in Chile election, but runoff likely: IPSOS

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Front-runner Michelle Bachelet is holding onto her substantial lead ahead of Chile’s presidential election on November 17, an IPSOS survey showed on Thursday, but the pollster again suggested she won’t garner enough support to avoid a December runoff.

Chilean presidential candidate Michelle Bachelet of the "Nueva Mayoria" (New Majority) coalition of political parties takes part in a campaign event in Valparaiso city, about 121 km (75 miles) northwest of Santiago, October 31, 2013. REUTERS/Eliseo Fernandez

Center-left favorite Bachelet was supported by 32 percent of likely voters, with undecideds included, compared to 20 percent for Evelyn Matthei, the candidate for the right-wing incumbent coalition.

The results were unchanged from an October 22 IPSOS poll and well below the 50 percent of votes Bachelet needs to pocket to dodge the December 15 runoff.

The clear favorite and Chile’s first woman president from 2006 to 2010, Bachelet has been urging supporters to hand her a clear-cut victory in November. But competition from eight other candidates will make it hard to win outright in the first round - a feat no candidate has managed since 1993.

A key poll last month suggested, however, that Bachelet might get enough votes to avoid a second round, attracting 47 percent of voting intentions to Matthei’s 14 percent.

Thursday’s poll gave third-placed independent Franco Parisi 14 percent, with six other candidates below that level.

Support for Marco Enriquez-Ominami, a leftist economist and filmmaker supported by some disappointed with Bachelet’s presidency, jumped from 7 percent to 11 percent, putting him hot on the heels of Parisi.

Undecided voters and those planning to cast void or blank ballots fell to 9 percent from 11 percent in the last poll.

With undecideds stripped out, support for Bachelet rose to 35 percent versus 22 percent for Matthei, who is a former labor minister.

IPSOS filters those it surveys, providing responses only for those who it thinks have a high probability of voting - around half of the total surveyed.

Disillusionment with politics, particularly among the young, is high in Chile, where wealth largely remains concentrated in the hands of a few affluent families and the political elite is seen as out of touch.

The Andean country moved to a voluntary voting system from a compulsory one last year, injecting a dose of uncertainty into electoral forecasts.

Still, because the former head of the U.N. women’s agency is widely expected to cruise to victory, the major question is whether Bachelet’s bloc will have enough clout in Congress to push through her proposed reforms, which include hiking corporate taxes to help fund education reform and overhauling the dictatorship-era constitution.

The next president takes office in March.

IPSOS polled 2,000 people, including 1,071 likely voters, from October 19 to November 5, with a margin of error of 3 percentage points for likely voters.

Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien and Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Grant McCool and Eric Walsh

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