The Jerusalem Post

Pinera trounces opponent for Chile presidency, faces split Congress


SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Billionair­e conservati­ve Sebastian Pinera will begin his second presidenti­al term in March with a strong mandate after trouncing his center-left opponent in Sunday’s presidenti­al election, marking a turn to the right in the world’s top copper producer.

Still, the former president, whose 2010-2014 presidency was marked by massive student protests, will face a divided Congress and an upstart leftist coalition that has vowed to fight his plans to lower taxes and “refine” predecesso­r Michelle Bachelet’s progressiv­e policies.

Chile’s peso strengthen­ed more than two percentage points on Monday, while the IPSA stock index hit an alltime high and was up nearly 8%, as investors bet on more business-friendly policies from the incoming Pinera administra­tion.

Pinera, 68, won more votes than any president since Chile’s return to democracy in 1990, with a nine-percentage-point win over center-left Senator Alejandro Guillier in the runoff vote.

It was the biggest-ever loss for the center-left coalition that has dominated Chile’s politics since the end of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorsh­ip, and followed other South American countries including Argentina, Peru and Brazil that have shifted to the political Right in recent years.

The results of a first-round vote and a congressio­nal election last month point to a more divided country, however. Farleft Beatriz Sanchez captured 20% of votes, nearly as many as the more moderate Guillier, suggesting some dissatisfa­ction with Chile’s long-standing free-market model.

Guillier on Sunday acknowledg­ed the “harsh defeat” and urged his supporters to defend Bachelet’s progressiv­e reforms.

Pinera’s Chile Vamos Party has 72 of 155 representa­tives in the lower house, more than any other bloc. Still, without an outright majority in either chamber, Pinera’s allies will have to form alliances to pass most laws.

Sanchez’s coalition earned its first senate seat and around 20 seats in the lower house.

“The Frente Amplio commits to continuing to work for a changing Chile, with more rights and more democracy,” she wrote in a Tweet congratula­ting Pinera.

Efforts by Pinera’s ideologica­l allies in Brazil and Argentina to reduce fiscal deficits by cutting spending and reforming pension systems have faced political opposition and sparked protests in recent months.

Pinera, to be sure, has done his best to strike a conciliato­ry tone. He does not take office until March, but already met with Bachelet early Monday morning.

In his victory speech Sunday night, Pinera addressed Guillier, saying, “Despite our great difference­s, there are large points of agreement.”

 ?? (Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters) ?? CHILEAN PRESIDENT-elect Sebastian Pinera attends a news conference yesterday in Santiago.
(Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters) CHILEAN PRESIDENT-elect Sebastian Pinera attends a news conference yesterday in Santiago.

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