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Weekly Report - 10 September 2015 (WR-15-36)

CHILE: Bachelet urged to change tack

President Michelle Bachelet is desperately trying to arrest the inexorable slide in her approval rating. After her popularity hit a fresh nadir of 24% last week, Bachelet announced an increased social focus for national budgets which she said would be “felt by the public”. The political opposition, meanwhile, sought to capitalise on Bachelet’s travails by calling upon her to abandon her government’s ambitious (and contentious) reform agenda altogether for the good of Chile. Bachelet has sent out mixed messages in recent weeks, promising ‘realism without surrender’, but seeming to place the emphasis on the second part of the slogan, prompting dismay not just from the private sector but also from within the ruling Nueva Mayoría coalition.

President Bachelet said that the main emphasis of the budget for 2016 would be placed on social matters to safeguard the public from the repercussions of the global economic slowdown on Chile. The ministerial spokesman, Marcelo Díaz, clarified that this meant education, health, public security and employment. “In life you have to keep pushing ahead ignoring the petty calculations of the few,” Bachelet said in response to withering criticism from the opposition for her to change the government’s course (see sidebar).

The national pollster Adimark showed Bachelet losing two percentage points in August to fall to an approval rating of just 24%. The weekly survey Cadem also put her popularity at 24%, with a disapproval rating of 68%. Only 25% of respondents to the Cadem survey approved of the government’s much-trumpeted education reform, which was opposed by 65%, while 54% felt the proposed labour reform would lead to more unemployment in Chile and only 29% more jobs. A massive 88% disapproved of the government’s performance in confronting crime and 87% its efforts to fight corruption.

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