Pinera plans sweeping electoral reforms in Chile

* Wooing support for capital market reforms

* Financial package needed to rebuild infrastructure

By Alonso Soto

SANTIAGO, May 14 (BestGrowthStock) – Chilean President Sebastian
Pinera said on Friday he plans sweeping electoral reforms that
could help him woo opposition support for capital market
reforms and an $8.4 billion financing package after a massive
earthquake.

Pinera, a conservative who ended 20 years of center-left
rule and took office in March, seeks to expand the number of
potential voters by making electoral registration automatic. He
would also allow voters to decide if they want to cast a
ballot.

Chileans who are registered to vote must do so or face
penalties. For years, young Chileans have held off registering,
which is voluntary. That has dramatically slashed the number of
young voters in recent elections.

The political overhaul could help Pinera win support among
more centrist opponents in Congress to pass his package to
finance rebuilding towns and infrastructure destroyed by a
massive Feb. 27 quake.

“He wants to place himself between the right and the left
with a moderate approach that aims to get legislative support
from both the right and the left,” said Patricio Navia, a
political scientist at New York University and Santiago’s Diego
Portales University.

“This is aimed at the more centrist members of both the
right and the left.”

Pinera is also seeking to push through a capital market
reform package to boost liquidity and ensure the solvency of
the country’s financial markets.

As part of the electoral overhaul, Pinera, a self-made
billionaire, is proposing legislation to ensure political
parties hold primaries.

A primary by the then ruling center-left Concertacion
coalition, which was widely criticized as unfair, caused a
split that contributed to its defeat in the presidential vote.

The Concertacion has sought to automate vote registration
and make polling voluntary since the end of the 17-year
military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet in 1990. But
itt faced strong resistance from right-wing parties in the
legislature.

“He is making lots of wise political moves,” said Marta
Lagos, head of Santiago-based pollster Mori. “This sort of
reform aims to better distribute power and could benefit his
popularity in the immediate-term.”

Pinera said the planned electoral reform sought to allow
Chileans living abroad to vote in local elections.

Stock Market Advice
(Reporting by Antonio de la Jara and Bianca Frigiani; Editing
by Simon Gardner)

Pinera plans sweeping electoral reforms in Chile