SANTIAGO – Former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos announced on Monday that he is pulling out of the race for a second term in next November’s presidential election, after the Socialist Party (PS) decided Sunday that its candidate will instead be an independent senator.
“I have decided to give up my hopes of again serving as president of the republic. I do so with the serenity of having acted according to the dictates of my conscience and not to pursue personal interests,” said Lagos, who was president between 2000-2006.
The decision of the Socialist Party, which this Sunday voted to back Sen. Alejandro Guillier for the presidency, brought on the sudden withdrawal of Lagos, who was left with the sole support of the Party for Democracy (PPD), another part of the center-left coalition.
The former president admitted that he failed to achieve a “convergence” around his campaign for a second term.
“This was undoubtedly because we don’t all get the same sense of urgency from the threat of our progressive forces being dispersed and a wave of big business and conservatives being restored to power, which could last for many years,” he warned.
Lagos has obtained poor results in recent surveys and has trailed Guillier by a wide margin, so that the latter looks like a better choice to run against former President Sebastian Piñera, the big favorite to be the candidate of the conservative opposition.
“The Chileans know me,” Lagos said. “I’m not a dictator, I know how to listen to the voice of the people and accept their verdict. I’m in politics to serve the country, not to pile up honors.”
President Michelle Bachelet lamented Lagos’s decision but asked everyone to “accept and respect it.”
“I’m sorry about that, but it’s his decision and now it’s up to the parties of the New Majority to decide what they’re going to do,” the president said.
Lagos’s withdrawal leaves up in the air the primaries scheduled for July 2, at which the New Majority, the ruling coalition, will choose its presidential candidate.
The Christian Democracy (DC) party is studying whether to have its pre-candidate, Carolina Goic, go directly to the first round of the presidential election, to be held Nov. 19.
Christian Democrats are opposed to holding primaries with just two nominees and will make the final choice of their candidate at their national congress on April 29.