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Chilean right struggles to agree on presidential candidate

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Santiago, Jul 22 (EFE).- Chilean President Sebastian Piñera on Monday accepted the resignation of Labor Minister Evelyn Matthei, who is stepping down in the hope of becoming the rightist governing coalition's presidential candidate in the Nov. 17 election.

"My resignation has been accepted," the former minister told reporters on Monday. Matthei became the candidate of the UDI party after the coalition's original candidate, Pablo Longueira, shocked Chile's political class last week by announcing he was withdrawing from the race due to depression.

While Longueira urged his UDI and its coalition partner, RN, to quickly come together around a new standard-bearer, each party seems to be pursuing its own agenda.

"It seems reasonable to me for each party to have its own candidate and afterward for us to have a way to decide which of the two could have a greater chance of winning," Matthei, 59, said Monday.

Proclaiming herself ready to subject herself to any election mechanism, such as a convention, primaries or a survey, she said that all her "people are really awaiting a single candidate."

Piñera, who on Monday insisted in a radio interview that the rightist parties must leave "their ambitions" behind to agree on a single candidate, he later met with RN and UDI leaders to analyze the situation.

The Chilean constitution bars the president from seeking a second consecutive term.

The center-left opposition alliance has selected popular former President Michelle Bachelet, who governed Chile from 2006-2010, as its candidate in the November election.

RN on Monday will hold a meeting to analyze the situation, but it is expected that it will be on Aug. 3 that the final decision will be announced.

The RN's Andres Allamand, who lost the ruling coalition's June 30 primary to Longueira, has said that he will only be a presidential candidate if he garners the support of the UDI, but his name has been largely rejected within that party, just as Matthei has been criticized within the RN.

Matthei and Bachelet - both daughters of air force generals - were childhood friends, but their paths diverged after the Sept. 11, 1973, military coup that toppled socialist President Salvador Allende.

While Matthei's father became part of the junta that went on to rule Chile until 1990, Gen. Alberto Bachelet was arrested for his opposition to the putsch and was effectively tortured to death by his erstwhile brothers-in-arms.

Michelle Bachelet, then a medical student, and her mother were also jailed and tortured by Gen. Augusto Pinochet's secret police, but officers who had been friends of Alberto Bachelet eventually secured their release, on condition that the two women went into exile.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/agencia-efe/130722/chilean-right-struggles-agree-presidential-candidate