SANTIAGO DE CHILE – Independent Chilean presidential candidate Marco Enriquez-Ominami says he can still gain ground and challenge the frontrunner in next month's elections.
Enriquez-Ominami is a former film producer whose father was a guerrilla leader killed in a shootout with Gen. Augusto Pinochet's military at the start of the 17-year dictatorship. He surprised many during the 2009 presidential election. As a young candidate with just a few years of political experience, he got 20 percent of the vote.
'MEO' - as he's known for brevity's sake - now trails far behind former president Michelle Bachelet in polls ahead of the Nov. 17 vote. But he said Friday there's still time to beat center-right candidate Evelyn Matthei for the No. 2 spot and push the elections into a runoff.
"If you look at the polls, I'm closer to the second round than in the last elections - just five points from Matthei. And getting those points in 30 days is very easy," he told foreign correspondents in Santiago.
A poll by the Diego Portales University released Thursday sees center-left Bachelet winning the first round of the presidential election, but suggests she will likely face a runoff on Dec. 15.
Bachelet is garnering up nearly 38 percent of likely votes, while some 12 percent would likely back Matthei. Independent candidate Franco Parisi polled near 11 percent. Enriquez-Ominami trails behind him with 7 percent.
The rest is split among other candidates, the undecided and those who plan to cast blank votes.
Enriquez Ominami was 36 - just a year past the minimum required to run for president - when he fired up younger voters in the last election with his charisma and energy.
His policy proposals include free education and health services for all Chileans, improved pensions and reforming the Pinochet-era constitution and electoral system. He also favors decriminalizing marijuana use and granting gay couples the right to marry.
Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao