Chile president-elect's reform plans have broad backing: poll

Reuters
Chile's President-elect Michelle Bachelet listens to a question during a news conference at her headquarters in Santiago
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Chile's President-elect Michelle Bachelet listens to a question during a news conference at her headquarters …

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile's president-elect Michelle Bachelet will embark on a second term riding a wave of popular support that includes widespread backing for her key policy proposals, according to a poll released on Thursday.

Center-left Bachelet will take office on March 11 with a mandate to hike corporate taxes to pay for an education reform, and will push to overhaul the constitution, which dates to General Augusto Pinochet's 1973-1990 dictatorship.

Almost 80 percent of those surveyed said they agreed with education reform, pollster and research center Cerc said, while 63 percent approved tax reform and 71 percent a new constitution.

The proposals enjoyed support across the political spectrum, including those identified with the conservative Alianza coalition of outgoing President Sebastian Pinera.

Nearly three-quarters of Alianza supporters backed Bachelet's education reform proposals, and around half endorsed her proposed tax and constitutional changes, the poll found.

Bachelet's bloc clinched a narrow majority in both houses of Congress, which is enough to pass tax reforms.

But for the four-sevenths majority required for education reform, Bachelet will need to enlist independent or opposition legislators in the Senate and House of Representatives - from some of whom she has already received hints of backing. Constitutional change needs two-thirds backing.

SECOND TERM HOPES

Bachelet, who already served as the nation's president from 2006 to 2010, won 62 percent of the vote against Alianza coalition candidate Evelyn Matthei in a December 15 presidential runoff.

Chile's constitution bars presidential re-election to consecutive terms.

In the poll, 41 percent foresaw Bachelet's new presidential administration as being better than her first and 33 percent saw it as being equal.

Compared with Pinera's outgoing administration, 37 percent thought Bachelet's government would represent an improvement while around one-third thought it would be about the same.

Pinera will leave office with a 36 percent approval rating, the lowest of any outgoing president since the return to democracy nearly 25 years ago, according to Cerc.

His government's approval ratings were hurt by long months of massive student protests seeking free and improved education, among other things.

The poll included 1,200 people and was conducted between December 19 and January 10. The margin of error was 3 percent.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by W Simon)

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