SANTIAGO Centre-left Chilean presidential candidate Carolina Goic cast doubt on Monday on the possibility of participating in a primary round, heightening the chance of a fractured left heading into the South American nation's November election.
Earlier on Monday, moderate leftist candidate Ricardo Lagos, who had been struggling with low poll numbers, dropped out of the race after Chile's powerful Socialist Party endorsed leftist independent Alejandro Guillier.
The candidates to the left of centre with measurable support who remain in Chile's presidential race are Guillier, Goic and Beatriz Sanchez of the hard-left Frente Amplio coalition.
For the past 27 years, leftists in Chile have maintained a broad alliance and have held primaries representing a wide range of views.
However, the most recent iteration of that alliance, known as the Nueva Mayoria, has begun fracturing as its various factions have become increasingly critical of one another.
Of the three remaining candidates on the left, Guillier is by far the most popular, with 23 percent of the vote, while Goic and Sanchez both have 2 percent, according to a recent survey by Chilean pollster Adimark.
The favourite for Chile's more unified right, conservative ex-President Sebastian Pinera, is ahead of all other rivals with 27 percent of the vote.
"After Lagos dropped out... without doubt I consider the idea of a primary much more difficult," Goic told reporters on Monday, adding that a final decision would be made at a Christian Democratic Party (DC) meeting on April 29.
Many members of the DC have already promoted the idea of skipping the Nueva Mayoria's primaries, set to take place in July. Many say frontrunner Guillier is too far to the left to represent their interests.
Damage from infighting on the left will be limited by the fact that a candidate must win 50 percent of the popular vote to avoid a runoff. But, analysts say, the lack of a unified front will hurt the left on the campaign trail.
"The electorate of the DC will not vote for Guillier in the first round," ex-Congresswoman and prominent Christian Democrat Mariana Aylwin wrote on Twitter. "It's the end of the Nueva Mayoria."
(Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Dan Grebler)