Bachelet reforms hinge on deft handling of Chile’s tricky Congress

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Chilean presidential candidate Bachelet delivers a speech after general elections, in SantiagoBy Alexandra Ulmer SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Presidential favorite Michelle Bachelet fell just short of a decisive first-round victory and her center-left bloc failed to gain major ground in Congress on Sunday, possibly snarling her ambitious plans to curb Chile's steep income inequality. To be sure, Bachelet triumphed against eight other candidates and is expected to handily beat the wounded right-wing's presidential candidate, Evelyn Matthei, in next month's runoff vote. Under Chile's unusual electoral system, a dictatorship-era creation which gives the second-place party a bloated presence in Congress, Bachelet's Nueva Mayoria coalition never nurtured much hopes of sweeping the legislative body. Bachelet, who was Chile's first female president from 2006 to 2010, will need to woo independents to block the right's veto power, broker power with the bruised right, and hope social movements pile pressure on Congress to approve her flagship reforms.

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