Top Two Candidates in Chile’s Presidential Race Are Women

Two women are leading for the presidential nomination of Chile’s ruling coalition, for the first time ever. The women, Christian Democrat Soledad Alvear and Socialist Michelle Bachelet, are competing for the nomination of the center-left, multi-party coalition that has been in power in Chile since the end of General Pinochet’s regime in 1990, according to the New York Times. Both women would easily beat the presumptive opposition nominee, former Santiago Mayor Joaquin Lavin, according to opinion polls from Ipsos Chile. Lavin is a leader of the pro-Pinochet Independent Democratic Union, the Times reports.

Bachelet is the first woman to ever hold the position of Minister of Defense in any Latin American country. She and her mother both survived torture under the Pinochet regime in the 1970s Ð her father, a prominent general, was tortured to death in 1974. Bachelete previously served as the country’s Minister of Health.

“If you’d asked me a decade ago could a woman become president, I’d have had to say no flat out,” Alvear told the Times. Most recently serving as Chile’s Foreign Minister, she has been a cabinet minister in three consecutive governments, and is seen as more conservative on social and economic issues, according to the Times.

“I think that both of these women have emerged not so much because they are women but because of a vacuum and a disenchantment with politicsÉ They are symbols for a Chilean electorate that wants new faces and a different way of doing politics,” said Marta Lagos, a public opinion analyst in Chile, according to the Times. Bachelet echoed this sentiment, telling the Times, “One reason we women have begun appearing as relevant figures is that we represent a type of humanization of politics, closer to how people see themselves.”

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New York Times 12/20/04, 5/11/04; Inter-American Development Bank January 2002; Merco Press 12/13/04; Soledad Alvear CV January 2000

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