Around 44% of Chileans are rooting for former centre-left President Michelle Bachelet to make a comeback in this year’s election against a weakened right-wing candidate, a poll showed.
Only 12% of those polled favour Evelyn Matthei, a fiery former labour minister, the fractured right’s front-runner.
A fifth of those polled said they did not know or declined to say who they would like to win November’s election, according to pollster CEP. Four percent are keen on Franco Parisi, an independent economist who appeals to some more centrist Chileans, and another 4% on Marco Enriquez-Ominami, a left-leaning politician.
Analysts say candidates from smaller parties and independents could splinter votes and push the November 17 election into a December 15 run-off.
Candidates need more than 50% of the vote to win in the first round.
Still, 75% of Chileans think popular Bachelet eventually will be the next president, versus only 6% who have that expectation for Matthei.
As Bachelet is widely expected to cruise to victory, the key question is now whether she will clinch the necessary parliamentary majority to push through her ambitious agenda.
The paediatrician-turned-politician, who governed the Andean nation from 2006 to 2010, appears to have returned to Chile with more of a left-wing programme.
Bachelet is seeking to “work towards” free education, increase corporate taxes and overhaul the dictatorship-era constitution.
While Chile is an economic star in Latin America, many in the economically stratified country feel they have not reaped the benefits of a copper boom and are eager for improved social policies.
Matthei’s candidacy marks the first time the two main presidential candidates in Chile are women - and daughters of former air force generals.