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Chile's presidential election: Conservative Sebastian Pinera may win the vote but still face a runoff

December 13, 2009 | 10:25 am

Conservative billionaire Sebastian Pinera appeared likely to gather the most votes in today's presidential election in Chile but not enough to prevent a runoff.

Pinera's competition includes former President Eduardo Frei and lawmaker Marco Enriquez-Ominami. Pinera was expected to win about 44% of the vote compared to about 31% for Frei and nearly 18% for Enriquez-Ominami, according to a pre-election estimate by the CERC public-opinion firm. More than 50% is needed to avoid a runoff.

The widely popular President Michelle Bachelet, who enjoys an approval rating of around 80%, cannot seek reelection to a second four-year term per the country's constitution.

For years, Chile was run by dictator Augusto Pinochet, the leader of a military junta that took power in a 1973 coup that removed President Salvador Allende. Pinochet stayed in power until elected President Patricio Aylwin became the country's leader in 1990.

For a preview of today's election by Los Angeles Times special correspondent Chris Kraul, click here.

-- Efrain Hernandez Jr.

Photo: Sebastian Pinera holds up his ballot before casting it today in Chile's presidential election. Credit: Roberto Candia / Associated Press