April 1, 2015 / 1:50 PM / 5 years ago

Chile's Bachelet approval sinks amid political and natural storms

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chilean President Michelle Bachelet’s approval ratings have plunged to their lowest level ever, a poll showed on Wednesday, after a month of natural disasters and political corruption scandals that have diverted attention from her reform drive.

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet addresses the audience before the official draw for the 2015 edition of the Copa America soccer tournament in Vina del Mar November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

The number of respondents who approved of Bachelet’s performance fell to 31 percent in March, down 8 percentage points from February’s survey, according to the GfK Adimark poll. It was the worst result of both her current administration, which began a year ago, and her 2006-10 term in office.

Chile, the world’s top copper exporter, was battered in March by an erupting volcano, forest fires, worsening drought and finally floods in the north.

Some have criticized the government’s reaction to the floods, which left 23 dead, a number of towns devastated and thousands in temporary accommodation.

At the same time, Bachelet has had to deal with questions over her daughter-in-law’s access to a large bank loan, while the country’s right wing and its business elite have been rocked by a campaign financing scandal.

The events have dominated headlines and absorbed government time, sapping its ability to push on with an already ambitious drive to overhaul Chile’s education and political systems.

“The political storms... have affected not only the government, but also the opposition, the political class in general and in particular something that until now has appeared unscathed: the figure of the president,” Adimark said.

Approval for Bachelet’s center-left Nueva Mayoria bloc has fallen in tandem with support for its leader, down in March to 28 percent, but the right-wing Alianza opposition is a long way from being able to take advantage. Its approval was at 16 percent.

The next presidential election is in 2017.

The GfK Adimark survey polled 1,258 people between March 5 and March 27, with a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Peter Galloway

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