September 1, 2017 / 2:54 PM / in 4 months

Pinera maintains healthy lead in Chilean presidential race, poll shows

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chilean conservative presidential candidate Sebastian Pinera is maintaining a solid lead in the polls for the nation’s November election, leading pollster CEP said on Friday.

In the first round of voting, billionaire Pinera would take 31.3 percent of the vote, up from 24 percent in CEP’s last poll released in June. Center-left Senator Alejandro Guillier would take 14.5 percent up from 13 percent in the last survey, while hard-left Beatriz Sanchez would take 10.2 percent, up from 5 percent previously.

The poll showed that Pinera would win against either rival in a potential run-off, beating Guillier 39 percent to 31 percent and Sanchez 39 percent to 27 percent, while a large proportion of Chileans would not vote.

Details of the poll such as the margin of error were not immediately available.

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 the world’s top copper exporter.

However, it would disappoint Bachelet’s base, as well as a younger generation of urban Chileans who are demanding deep changes to the South American nation’s free-market economic model.

Though Pinera continues to be the odds-on favorite, the poll is also a boost of confidence for Sanchez, a journalist representing the newly formed Frente Amplio movement. With proposals such as raising mining taxes by billions of dollars and throwing out the current semi-privatized social security system, Sanchez’s movement is something of a novelty for one of Latin America’s most conservative countries.

The election is scheduled for November 19, but if no candidate receives more than 50 percent in the first round, it will go to a December run-off.

Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Dan Grebler and Alistair Bell

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