Sebastian Pinera's resounding victory in a presidential runoff election swings Chile back to the right and highlights the increasing number of conservative leaders who have won power in Latin America, the AP reports. With nearly all ballots counted, the billionaire former president won 54.6% of the votes Sunday to 45.4% for former journalist and center-left Sen. Alejandro Guillier. Analysts had predicted a much closer contest, feeling Guillier had gained ground, although there had not been any opinion polls since the election's first round in November. Pinera, who ran on a platform of boosting sluggish economic growth in the world's top copper producer, thanked his opponents and called for unity.
The results prompted celebrations by Pinera's supporters across the country of 17 million people. Some people waved flags and held banners, while others beeped car horns and yelled out the last name of the 68-year-old former airline magnate, who was president from 2010 to 2014. Guillier, 64, had received the support of current President Michelle Bachelet, and had vowed to continue her plan to increase corporate taxes to partly finance an education overhaul, reform the constitution, and improve the pension and health care system. Pinera's triumph underscored the fractures in Bachelet's New Majority left-wing coalition and the rise of conservative leaders at the ballot box in recent years in other regional countries, including Argentina, Paraguay, and Peru.