Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Piñera Wins First Round of Elections in Chile

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A January 17 runoff  is now set between Sebastian Piñera of the Alliance for Chile coalition and former President Eduardo Frei of the ruling Concertación coalition. On Sunday, with 98 percent of votes counted, Piñera won the first round with 44 percent of votes cast compared to 30 percent for Frei. The two candidates are now vying for the support that went to independent Marco Enríquez-Ominami, who secured 20 percent of first-round votes. Ominami refuses to endorse either candidate.

Political scientist Ricardo Israel of the University of Chile said the second round will be “very tight” as it was in the last two presidential elections “with the only difference being that for the first time, the opposition candidate has the advantage.”

Chileans also voted for members of Congress on Sunday, with over 500 candidates vying for all 120 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 18 of 38 seats in the Senate. Unión Demócrata Independiente (UDI) emerged as the strongest force, winning 23.1 percent of the votes. Sebastian Piñera’s Renovación Nacional (RN) won 17.8 percent of votes in the Chamber. In the Senate, the ruling Concertación was left with 19 members while the Right emerged with 17 Senators. The new Chamber of Deputies will include 58 members from the Right, and 57 members from the ruling Concertación coalition. The new session begins in March 2010.

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