Latin American billionaire Sebastian Pinera in pole position in Chilean presidential race

By Branko Brkic 14 December 2009

Sebastian Pinera, billionaire and right-of-centre politician overwhelmed three leftist candidates with 44% of the popular vote (former pres. Edauardo Frei had 30%, and two others, breakaway socialist Marco Enriquez-Ominami and communist Jore Arrate had 20% and 6%), setting up a run-off between Pinera and Frei on Jan. 17, 2010. Pinero's like win would end leftist presidential rule in Chile since 1990. Despite major economic and social gains, polls indicate Chileans are eager for political change. A key question is whether Pinera can gain the support of voters who backed Enriquez-Ominami - with some analysts predicting as much as one third of Enriquez-Ominami's supporters will shift to Pinera. The Chilean economy has lowered poverty from 45% in 1990 to 13% but the serious wealth gap and underfunded education means voters believe much more still needed to be done to redistribute Chile's copper wealth. For more, read the AP