Pinera set for presidential comeback in Chile

SANTIAGO: Chileans went to the polls on Sunday in the first round of the country’s presidential election, with former leader Sebastian Pinera hoping to capitalise on his front-runner status to succeed Socialist leader Michelle Bachelet.
But pundits believe Pinera, a conservative 67-year-old billionaire who was president from 2010 to 2014, may not gain enough support to avoid a runoff next month — likely against Alejandro Guillier, an independent supported by Bachelet’s Socialists.
Chile’s constitution bans consecutive terms for presidents, but re-election after skipping a term is permissible.
Bachelet herself led the conservative South American country — Latin America’s fifth-biggest economy — from 2006 to 2010 and then was re-elected to replace Pinera in 2014.
Pre-vote surveys show the Harvard-educated Pinera with a comfortable lead going into Sunday’s contest — but not enough to win the presidency outright.
“It’s not very likely” he will get the 50 per cent or more of ballots needed to avoid a run-off, said political analyst Mauricio Morales of Talca University.
In that case, a second-round showdown would be held between the top two candidates on December 17, and the winner would take over the presidency in March 2018.
Bachelet, who was also Chile’s first woman president, hugged and took photographs with female supporters before casting her vote in Santiago.
“It is important that people come out and vote (for a candidate) because they feel they represent what they want for Chile,” she said, predicting a second round. — AFP