Conservative former President Sebastian Piñera has won Chile’s presidential runoff in an election that was expected to have a much closer result.
With nearly all of the ballots counted, electoral authorities said Piñera had secured 54.6 percent of the votes. His centre-left opponent, Alejandro Guillier, received 45.4 percent.
Although there were no opinion polls in the lead-up to Sunday’s election, analysts had expected the race to be tight as Guillier, a senator and popular TV journalist, had appeared to have gained some ground since the runoff last month.
The announcement of the win sparked scenes of jubilation at Pinera’s campaign headquarters in Chile’s capital, Santiago.
“I want to renew my commitment to all Chileans, a commitment to unity and dialogue so I invite all previous presidents to share their experience and advice with me so that we can reach national agreements to tackle our biggest problems,” Piñera told his supporters.
While Piñera, a billionaire businessman who led the country from 2010 to 2014, has been linked to several business and political scandals, his support from the business community and markets helped pushed him to victory.
Sunday’s election followed a first-round win by Piñera who received 36.6 percent of the vote last month.
Guillier came second with 22.7 percent. A candidate needed 50 percent to win outright.
More than half of Chile’s eligible voters, some 6.5 million people, did not participate in the election’s first round.
Turnout has been low since mandatory voting was scrapped in 2012.
Shift to the right
Piñera’s win on Sunday represents the latest Latin American country to shift to the political right. Piñera will replace incumbent Michelle Bachelet, a socialist who is Chile’s first female president.
Bachelet had enjoyed a high approval rating in her first term. Her popularity fell through in part because of a corruption scandal involving her daughter-in-law. Chile is the first of seven Latin American countries to hold a presidential election over the next year.