Corruption scandals engulf the major parties and disgust could push voters - if they turn up at the polls to elect the country's mayors and council members - toward the country's smaller parties. The election results will be read as a guide to the political climate ahead of the 2017 presidential poll.
The approval rating for the governing centre-left New Majority coalition is just 21 per cent, according to the Buenos Aires Herald on Jun 20, with 12 per cent for the opposition right-wing Let's Go Chile. Changes to the electoral system last year are encouraging a proliferation of new parties that can tap into dissent.
Reuters reports that some of its sources blame the return to compulsory voting, which was abolished in 2012. In every election since then abstention exceeded 50 per cent. According to experts, other factors that influence absenteeism are the corruption cases that have discredited members from all political sectors.
BRICS+ News reported in Mar 2016 that the corruption is all-pervasive, involving eight of Chile's major political parties. The publication notes that since allegations were raised last year, 21 people have been charged and dozens more are being investigated. Among the politicians being questioned for taking bribes are President Michelle Bachelet and two former presidents, Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014) and Eduardo Frei (1994-2000).
Bachelet can't stand for re-election in 2017 because of a sequential term limit, but Piñera is reported to be planning another run at the top job.
Date written/update: 2016-08-17