November 3, 2016 / 5:26 PM / 3 years ago

Chile anti-establishment presidential hopeful rises in polls

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Support is growing for an independent, left-leaning senator to run for president in Chile’s 2017 election, a poll released on Thursday showed, in a race with two ex-presidents.

Senator Alejandro Guillier is seen inside at the Chilean congress in Valparaiso, Chile September 14, 2016. Picture taken September 14. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

The GfK Adimark poll showed rapidly increasing support for Alejandro Guillier, a journalist turned anti-establishment senator who was little known just a few months ago.

When asked who they would choose as president if elections were held this week, 15 percent of 1,056 Chileans surveyed from Oct. 7-27 named Guillier, up from 5 percent in August.

Guillier, 63, is gaining on Sebastian Pinera, the top choice with 20 percent of support. Center-right Pinera led the country from 2010 to 2014 and is the favorite to secure the opposition right-wing coalition ticket in the November 2017 election.

Support for Ricardo Lagos, a moderate leftist who led Chile from 2000 to 2006, remains low at 5 percent, although his campaign received a boost over the weekend when Isabel Allende, seen as a key rival to represent the governing coalition, said she would not run.

Allende, the daughter of deposed socialist leader Salvador Allende, had expressed an interest in running, but her popularity has recently declined.

Voters have turned sour on President Michelle Bachelet’s government after a series of corruption scandals, an ambitious reform drive that has fallen flat with many Chileans, and weak economic growth.

Bachelet’s coalition was punished in recent local elections, and abstention was high.

But as Chileans have become disillusioned with mainstream politics, Guillier scores highly on trust factors, polls show.

Leaving journalism for politics in 2013, Guillier has painted himself as a change from the status quo and a “transition” toward the next generation, a cluster of popular ex-student leaders who are too young to run for the highest office.

On his website, operational since Wednesday, Guillier emphasizes rebuilding trust and flags a meeting with former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, a leftist who championed progressive, sometimes unconventional policies.

Lagos, a 78-year-old political veteran known for the stand he took against ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet in the 1980s, is conscious of his political legacy and will likely withdraw if he sees a high chance of losing, political scientist Kenneth Bunker tweeted on Thursday.

The GfK Adimark poll has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Richard Chang

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