Sebastian Pinera wins Chile presidential election runoff

SANTIAGO, Chile — Former conservative party leader Sebastian Pinera easily advanced to a second round of the Chilean presidential election Sunday.

Pinera’s margin of victory over leftist socialist Beatriz Sanchez was nearly double the 45 percent that the two candidates secured in the first round.

Final results showed Pinera had won 39.2 percent of votes compared to Sanchez’s 23.4 percent.

The conservative Pinera is Chile’s wealthiest man and, as the president of Chile’s conservative Nueva Mayoria party, led the mining industry during Chile’s years of strong economic growth. He has said his plan to expand new welfare programs, as well as his support for free trade agreements, could help lead Chile out of the economic doldrums that followed the 2008 financial crisis.

A Pinera victory would represent a long-shot upset. Chileans routinely elect the country’s center-left presidents, and their country has not had a conservative president since 2006.

If Pinera wins in second round on April 2, he would take office in March of next year.

Pinera gained the ability to run for president on the conservative ticket because he is the son of a billionaire who built the world’s largest media conglomerate, Prisa, which operates newspapers, radio stations and television stations throughout Latin America.

His father, Jorge Pinera, served as president in the 1970s and 1980s.

Now 72, Pinera has a campaign war chest of more than $35 million. He had never held public office before his election campaign began.

He joins former military leader Sebastian Pinera, who is the son of a Chilean billionaire who built the world’s largest media conglomerate, Prisa, which operates newspapers, radio stations and television stations throughout Latin America.

He has waged an aggressive effort to win over Chileans since falling short in November presidential primaries, which would have prevented him from running in the last presidential election on Sunday.

Pinera, who has a campaign war chest of more than $35 million, has waged an aggressive effort to win over Chileans since falling short in November presidential primaries, which would have prevented him from running in the last presidential election on Sunday.

Pinera, who has a campaign war chest of more than $35 million, needs to take only about two-thirds of the vote in the upcoming run-off to avoid running against a runoff candidate in May.

Incumbent center-left President Michelle Bachelet can serve two additional terms. If she wins the re-election in the second round, it would be her second consecutive four-year term in office.

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