Pinochet pushed for the privatization of state enterprises and ended central control and funding of the nation's school system. Reversing those laws became a rallying cry during student marches over the past two years that have halted Chile and pushed education reform to the top of the national agenda.
Student leaders have focused their demands on restoring free, quality public education and have said they can bring about that change through votes, after previously pouring most of their energies into street protests.
Among the top Communist Party leaders Bachelet must woo is well-known student activist Camila Vallejo, who inspired millions during the education protests. Vallejo is running for Congress, part of a push by her party to win 10 legislative seats.
Without the backing of leftists such as Vallejo, Bachelet "would be unable to crystalize reform processes because she would lack enough votes," said Marcelo Mella, a political analyst at the University of Santiago.
But since Chile's return to democracy in 1990, the Communist Party has resisted joining the Concertacion coalition and instead banded with other more leftist groups. Vallejo has said she won't give Bachelet her vote or support without knowing more about her political agenda. The goal, Vallejo has said, is electing more non-Concertacion lawmakers who would support raising corporate taxes and undoing Pinochet-era education, health and pension reforms.
"What we need at this moment is a Congress that is mostly in the opposition and that has enough lawmakers to allow us to make changes," Vallejo told the University of Chile radio station in an interview.
"That's what we need in such a crucial moment. Even candidate Michelle Bachelet says it."
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