After an intense election year, right-wing billionaire Sebastian Pinera won the Chile presidential election on December 17 after he secured a comfortable lead on his center-left opponent Alejandro Guillier. Piñera will take office on March 11, 2018.
The former president – who governed Chile from 2010 to 2014 – polled more than 54 percent (Guardian), triumphing over Alejandro Guillier, who won more 40 percent. Pollsters had predicted for the margin to be much wider.
Guillier conceded the election shortly after the initial results. He was backed by President Michelle Bachelet, a socialist leader who had served two presidential terms. However, many Chileans became disillusioned under Bachelet’s administration, citing slow economic growth and a failure to meet campaign promises (Deutsche Welle).
Pinera is a Harvard-educated economist and businessman worth an estimated $2.7 billion, according to Forbes. He made his fortune by introducing credit cards to Chile in the late 1980s.
His campaign promised to jumpstart economic growth in the world’s top copper-producing country, which includes supporting Chile’s state-run mine Codelco and slashing red tape that hindered projects under Bachelet.
According to the World Bank, Chile has been one of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies in recent decades. Nevertheless, GDP growth fell from a high of 6.1 percent in 2011 to 1.6 percent in 2016 due to a decline in copper prices which negatively affected private investment and exports.
Chile is one of the few Latin American countries that does not have mandatory voting. About 14 million people were eligible to vote, though only 7 million Chileans went to the polls in a country of 17 million.
Pinera’s victory underscores an increasing tilt to the right in South America, following the rise of conservative leaders in Peru, Argentina and Brazil.