Chile: Sebastián Piñera wins presidential vote

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Sebastián Piñera election as president marks Chile new swing to the right. Credit: Concierto [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Piñera will take office on March 11, 2018 in front of the National Congress, as is tradition.

After an intense election year, the Conservative Sebastian PineraSebastián Piñera was elected on December 17 as the new President of Chile after he secured a comfortable lead on his centre-left opponent Alejandro Guillier conceding the election in Chile’s presidential runoff vote on Sunday. The electoral results push Chile politically towards the right, as followed by other neighbouring nations like Peru, Argentina and Brazil.

With 54.53%, the former president triumphed over Alejandro Guillier, who reached 45.47% in the runoff election according to the electoral agency which is a wider than expected margin in a race that pollsters had predicted would be tight.

Months of campaigning exposed deepening rifts among the country’s once bedrock centre left, an opening former president Piñera leveraged to rally more centrist voters around his proposals to cut corporate taxes, double economic growth and eliminate poverty in the world’s top copper producer.

His opponent, senator and former journalist Alejandro Guillier congratulated Piñera and conceded the election shortly after the initial results.

“I want to congratulate my contender, Sebastián Piñera, the new President of the Republic whom I already called to congratulate for his impeccable and solid triumph,” he said in his speech from his HQ.

About his defeat, he acknowledged that it was “hard, but in defeats it is when we learn the most, we have to lift our spirits and go out and defend the reforms we believe in,” he said.

“This is an electoral defeat, but it will not be a political defeat if we are able to raise our forces and commitment for Chile.” He also pledged as a senator to continue working for the renewal of progressivism.

“This is a time of renewal, not a setback, I must admit that my rival knew how to collect a lot of our flags,” Guillier said, emphasizing that “Chile has already changed.”

Many Chileans had viewed the election as a referendum on her policies, which focused on reducing inequality by reforming Chile’s largely privatized education system and making some changes in the tax code while reducing the fiscal deficit planned for next year.

A Harvard-educated businessman who make a great fortune due to his involvement in introducing credit cards to Chile in the late 1970s and his subsequent investments, mainly in LAN Airlines stock, attempts to exploit the broad discontent with the outgoing Bachelet’s presidency, who struggled to fulfill campaign promises to reform labor and education in the country and will end its term in March.

Though neither candidate would have marked a dramatic shift from Chile’s free-market economic model, which has remain unchanged since the dictatorship of the late Augusto Pinochet in the 70s. A conservative victory underscores an increasing tilt to the right in South America following the rise of conservative leaders in Peru, Argentina and Brazil.

As stated by the world bank, Chile has been one of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies in recent decades, enabling the country to significantly reduce poverty. Nevertheless, GDP growth fell from a high of 6.1 percent in 2011 to 1.6 percent in 2016 because of declining copper prices, which negatively affected private investment and exports.

Unlike several other Latin American countries, voting is no longer mandatory in Chile. Around 14 million people were eligible to cast ballots on Sunday but predictions expect that 54 percent of the electoral roll may not exercise their right to vote.

Piñera will take office on March 11, 2018 in front of the National Congress, as is tradition.

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