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  • Chilean presidential candidate Sebastian Pinera shows his ballot during the presidential election in Santiago, Chile December 17, 2017.

    Chilean presidential candidate Sebastian Pinera shows his ballot during the presidential election in Santiago, Chile December 17, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 December 2017

Chile's right-center candidate and billionaire former President Sebastian Piñera will serve his second term as president.

Billionaire former President Sebastian Piñera has defeated center-left Senator, Alejandro Guillier in Chile's presidential run-off.

In an emotional message, Guillier conceded Piñera's victory while calling on his supporters to defend the reforms carried out by the previous administration. 

Piñera, 68, leads with 54 percent of the vote with 82 percent of the vote tallied.

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Results from overseas ballots showed a landslide preference for Guillier, a 64-year-old former journalist, with 71.13 percent of voters abroad. Thousands of Chilean voters overseas took part in the run-off vote.

Piñera beat Guillier in 13 of Chile's 15 regions, however.

The election was seen as a contest between a pro-social welfare course promised by Guillier, and a step back towards neoliberal orthodoxy favored by Piñera, a one-time follower of late dictator Augusto Pinochet.

While neither candidate had mounted a challenge against Chile's free-market liberal model, Piñera ran on a slate of promised lower taxes to turbocharge corporate profits while Guillier stuck by the incumbent government's overhaul of education, taxes and labor – policies inherited from outgoing President Michelle Bachelet.

A Harvard-trained economist, Piñera made his fortune introducing credit cards to Chile in the 1980s, said he would create a public pension fund to compete with Chile's much-criticized private pension funds, and expand free education. 

Guillier, a popular former radio and television journalist of far more humble means, had pledged to increase access to free higher education and write workers' and Indigenous rights into a constitution to replace the current dictatorship-era document.

Latin America's fifth-biggest economic power will be governed by a right-wing candidate for only the second time since 1990.

The contest comes ahead of a long stretch of elections in Latin America in 2018 which will pit left and right against one another in Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela.

 
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