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Chile’s Presidential Race Heads to Wide-Open Final Round

LADB Article ID: 80466
Category/Department: Chile
Date: 2017-12-01
By: Benjamin Witte-Lebhar

Billionaire businessman and former head of state Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014) took the opening round of Chile’s crowded presidential election, but not by the slam-dunk margin many pundits predicted. The result sets the stage for a wide-open runoff on Dec. 17 against second-place finisher Alejandro Guillier. An independent senator and former television newscaster, Guillier is a relative newcomer to the political world, but he has a chance, nevertheless, to upset the more experienced conservative—provided he can unite the divided left. The placement of the candidates played out more or less as predicted, with Piñera (36.6%), Guillier (22.7%), and journalist Beatriz Sánchez (20.3%) of the upstart leftist coalition Frente Amplio (Broad Front, FA) securing the top three spots in the Nov. 19 contest. But the vote percentages the candidates received varied significantly from pre-election poll numbers and challenge the notion that Piñera is a “prohibitive favorite,” as a recent Los Angeles Times article described him. Analysts suggested for months that a 40% vote haul in the first round would give Piñera enough of a cushion to make victory in next month’s runoff highly probable, and most pollsters predicted he would reach that magic number. The actual result for Piñera was well below those projections.

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