SANTIAGO – Conservative candidate Sebastian Piñera won the presidential runoff against the governing party’s candidate, Sen. Alejandro Guillier, on Sunday, according to the preliminary – albeit all but definitive – vote count.
With 96.31 percent of the precincts counted, Piñera – who governed the country from 2010-2014 – has 54.57 percent of the vote to Guillier’s 45.43 percent and will succeed President Michelle Bachelet for the second time, governing this time from 2018-2022.
Guillier acknowledged his defeat on Sunday evening, saying “I want to congratulate my opponent, Sebastian Piñera, the new president of the republic, whom I called to congratulate for his impeccable and solid triumph.”
The election day activity “confirms that Chile enjoys a solid democracy, an electoral system recognized the world over,” Guillier emphasized.
At the command center of the Chile Vamos candidate, the triumphant atmosphere was palpable once partial results were first announced Sunday evening.
“We receive these results with great humility. They mean a lot,” said Cristobal Piñera Morel, the former president’s younger son. “My dad is not one of those people who ... sings about victory before it’s time, but he’s very happy,” he added, a sentiment echoed by Cecilia Morel, the former first lady although she said she never expected her husband’s margin of victory to be so great.
The euphoria at Piñera’s campaign HQ was in sharp contrast to the pessimism at Guillier’s, where former Christian Democratic minister Yasna Provoste acknowledged early on that the vote tally was going against her candidate.
Chileans headed to the polls Sunday for the presidential runoff election, after Piñera won 36.66 percent of the vote in the Nov. 19 first electoral round, while Guillier, the standard bearer of the governing Fuerza de Mayoria, garnered 22.68 percent of the vote.
The 68-year-old Piñera, a billionaire businessman, voted at a school in Santiago amid cheers from supporters and jeers from opponents.
“We’re awaiting the results with humility because you have to respect democracy and what the others decide, but also with much hope,” Piñera told reporters.
For his part, the 64-year-old Guillier, a former television anchorman, expressed confidence that he would win the election.
“The expectations are high; we’re going to win by two or three points. That’s how confident we are,” Guillier said while voting at a school in the northern city of Antofagasta.
Interior Undersecretary Mahmud Aleuy told reporters, meanwhile, that no serious incidents had been reported on election day.
Meanwhile, Bachelet – who will leave office on March 11 – cast her ballot at a polling place in the Santiago suburb of La Reina, where dozens of supporters chanted “Michelle! Michelle!”
This was the seventh presidential election held in Chile since the restoration of democracy in 1990.
Some 14.3 million people were eligible to vote in the runoff election. Just 6.7 million people voted in last month’s general elections, a voter turnout rate of 46.7 percent.