Conservative Sebastian Pinera wins Chile’s election

Chile is the latest Latin America country to shift to the right after billionaire businessman wins presidential runoff.

Conservative former President Sebastian Pinera has won Chile‘s presidential runoff in an election that was expected to have a much closer result. 

With nearly all of the ballots counted, electoral authorities said Pinera had secured 54.6 percent of the votes. His centre-left opponent, Alejandro Guillier, received 45.4 percent. 

Although there were no opinion polls in the lead-up to Sunday’s election, analysts had expected the race to be tight as Guillier, a senator and popular TV journalist, had appeared to have gained some ground since the runoff last month

The announcement of the win sparked scenes of jubilation at Pinera’s campaign headquarters in Chile’s capital, Santiago.

“I want to renew my commitment to all Chileans, a commitment to unity and dialogue so I invite all previous presidents to share their experience and advice with me so that we can reach national agreements to tackle our biggest problems,” Pinera told his supporters. 

Pinera supporters celebrate after hearing the results [Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]
Pinera supporters celebrate after hearing the results [Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]

While Pinera, a billionaire businessman who led the country from 2010 to 2014, has been linked to several business and political scandals, his support from the business community and markets helped pushed him to victory.

“I think the general issue is that politicians are now so discredited – that people are just assume that they are liars or thieves and then choose between the lesser of two evils,” political analyst Kristen Sehnbrunch told Al Jazeera.

Sunday’s election followed a first-round win by Pinera who received 36.6 percent of the vote last month. 

Guillier came second with 22.7 percent. A candidate needed 50 percent to win outright. 

More than half of Chile’s eligible voters, some 6.5 million people, did not participate in the election’s first round.

Turnout has been low since mandatory voting was scrapped in 2012.

Shift to the right

Pinera’s win on Sunday represents the latest Latin American country to shift to the political right. 

Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman said, however, that “Pinera will not have an easy time of it”. 

“This is not only because the electorate has proven itself to be more demanding, but also because he will not enjoy a majority in the legislator,” Newman said.


“This means that Pinera will still have a hard time rolling back on still popular social reforms as is happening in Brazil and neighbouring Argentina.” 

Political analyst Kenneth Bunker said that this Pinera government will be “more of an administrative government”.

“It’s going to be very similar to what we saw in his first term in power. It’s going to be more short-term oriented and related to jobs,” Bunker told Al Jazeera. 

Pinera will replace incumbent Michelle Bachelet, a socialist who is Chile’s first female president.

Bachelet had enjoyed a high approval rating in his first term.

Her popularity fell through in part because of a corruption scandal involving her daughter-in-law. 

Chile is the first of seven Latin American countries to hold a presidential election over the next year. 

Source: Al Jazeera