Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

THE INTERVIEW

‘Mexico will not finance US wall,’ foreign minister says

Read more

ACROSS AFRICA

African nations need to prepare for potential return of thousands of jihadists

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

DR Congo former child soldiers awarded $10 mn in damages in landmark ruling

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Website roots out "Rotten Apples"

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Putin's press conference, Alabama election, One Planet Summit, Brexit Phase II, Disney & Fox

Read more

#TECH 24

WorldRemit: Helping migrant workers send money back home

Read more

FOCUS

The challenges awaiting the new leader of South Africa's ANC

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Bangladeshi PM calls violence in Myanmar 'unacceptable'

Read more

DOWN TO EARTH

Was 2017 the worst year for the environment?

Read more

Americas

Centre-left party facing challenge from conservative Pinera

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-13

A conservative billionaire, Sebastian Pinera (pictured), is the frontrunner in first-round Chilean presidential elections on Sunday, challenging the center-left ruling coalition's 20-year hold on power.

AFP- A conservative billionaire is the frontrunner in first-round Chilean presidential elections on Sunday, challenging the center-left ruling coalition's 20-year hold on power.

Sebastian Pinera, 60, whose fortune is put at 1.2 billion dollars by Forbes magazine, has a solid lead over his leftwing rivals, former president Eduardo Frei, 67, and a charismatic former film director, Marco Enriquez-Ominami, according to voter intention surveys.

Should he win, it would mean a return to rightwing rule for Chile -- a prosperous South American nation that is the world's biggest copper producer -- for the first time since the end of General Augusto Pinochet's 1974-1990 military dictatorship.

Current President Michelle Bachelet is barred from seeking re-election to a second, four-year term, despite enjoying skyhigh popularity.

Sunday's elections will also renew Chile's 120-seat Chamber of Deputies and 20 of the 38 members of the Senate.

Numbers offered by pre-election surveys suggested that a second, run-off round would be needed in the presidential race because it looked unlikely that any of the candidates would get more than 50 percent of the ballots.

Pinera is credited with 44-percent support, while Frei, the candidate chosen by the Concertacion coaltion, trails with 31 percent and Enriquez-Ominami, an independent, with 18 percent, according to a Public Studies Center (CERC) survey.

A knockout duel between Pinera and Frei in a second round on January 17 could see Pinera triumph 49 percent to Frei's 32 percent, the CERC poll said.

But in that scenario, Pinera -- who has interests in television, Chile's big airline LAN and a football club -- could have to contend with a Congress filled with many members of the Concertacion leftwing coalition, making legislative passage tricky.

Issues confronting whoever becomes Chile's new president include a diplomatic row with neighboring Peru over alleged espionage, and managing a return to economic growth after a contraction brought on this year by the global crisis.

There are 8.3 million registered voters in Chile, with a bias towards an older electorate because of apathy among the country's youth.

Polling stations are to at 7:00 am (1000 GMT) and close at 4:00 pm (1900 GMT), with first official results expected some three hours later.

Date created : 2009-12-13

  • CHILE

    Conservative billionaire Pinera favoured to win presidential poll

    Read more

COMMENT(S)