RICKY HERNANDEZ, Associated Press – REFUGEE CARILLO, Chile — A polar opposite pair of politicians will head to a run-off election next month after no party reached the minimum threshold of votes required to win a majority in the presidential vote in Latin America’s wealthiest nation.
U.S.-trained economist Alejandro Guillier of the main opposition group, the progressive and social-democrat New Democracy, led the first round with 34 percent and a 12 percentage point lead over conservative, pro-business former President Sebastian Pinera.
President Michelle Bachelet, a leader of the 2015 accord known as the “21st century Constitution,” did not win enough votes to get the necessary 50 percent to avoid a runoff and will leave office next month. Her campaign waged against political corruption was too weak to overcome divided social views in this country of 16 million people.
Both candidates are pro-free market and want to continue lower taxes to boost Chile’s economy and preserve access to health care. They were expected to face tough campaigning in the run-off.
Pinera, who led Chile from 2010-14, said he was more motivated for a win after presidential campaigns in Italy and Spain were weakened and his distant relative, retired President Juan Manuel Santos, was re-elected this week.
“I’m coming out of the Chilean election with a simple idea: that there is nothing that we cannot achieve, that there is no limit to what we can do if we are united in the best interests of Chile,” Pinera said after first-round election results were announced on Wednesday.