Support for Chilean president Bachelet sliding fast -polls

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 03, 2014 11:54 AM

By Rosalba O'Brien

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Support for Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and her administration has fallen significantly in recent months, as voters worry about the economy and lose faith in her reform drive, two opinion polls showed on Wednesday.

Around 38 percent of Chileans surveyed by the Centro de Estudios Publicos approved of Bachelet's center-left government, down from 50 percent in August, the pollsters said.

Earlier on Wednesday, a separate survey by pollsters Adimark found a similar response, with support for the government at 37 percent, compared with 55 percent in March when Bachelet took power.

Bachelet's individual approval ratings were better but also falling, at 50 percent in the CEP poll, down 13 percentage points from its last August survey. They were 42 percent in the Adimark poll, down from 54 percent in March.

The findings are likely to worry Bachelet, who has pushed through an increasingly unpopular tax reform at a time when the economy is flagging.

The tax hike is intended to raise funds to pay for changes to Chile's education system and other reforms aimed at addressing steep inequality. But turning policies into bills and getting them through Congress has proved a slow and tortuous process, and the indications are that the public is running out of patience.

Approval of the government's handling of education has dropped to 25 percent, from 45 percent in March, according to the Adimark poll.

Bachelet can take some comfort from the fact that the right-wing opposition is faring no better, with support for the conservative 'Alianza' bloc even lower than for the government.

What perhaps may concern investors in the top copper exporter, one of Latin America's most developed and stable economies, is that voters seem increasingly disaffected with traditional political parties.

Marco Enriquez Ominami, a former socialist congressman who is not tied to either major bloc and has failed in two attempts to gain the presidency, received among the highest approvals in the CEP poll.

Socialist politician and daughter of deposed leader Salvador Allende, Isabel Allende, who is seen as a possible successor to Bachelet, also scored highly.

The monthly Adimark survey was conducted between Nov. 6 and 28, polling 1,045 people with a 3 percentage point error margin.

The CEP poll interviewed 1,432 people between Oct. 31 and Nov. 27, also with a 3 percentage point error margin.

(Editing by W Simon)