Billionaire former President, former journalist face off for Chile presidency

Vastavam web: Chileans vote in an uncertain runoff presidential election on Sunday that will determine if the world’s top copper producer stays on its center-left course or joins a tide of Latin American nations turning to the right in recent years.Both candidates would keep in place Chile’s longstanding free-market economic model, but Pinera has promised lower taxes to turbocharge growth while Guillier wants the government to press on with outgoing President Michelle Bachelet’s overhaul of education, taxes and labor.

The contest comes ahead of a long stretch of elections in Latin America in 2018. While populist candidates are polling near the top for the region’s largest economies of Brazil and Mexico, none advanced to the second round in Chile.Chilean financial markets rallied in the final week of campaigning, after falling in the weeks after the first round vote on Nov. 19 when far-left Beatriz Sanchez performed better than pollsters had foreseen with over 20 percent of votes, finishing third.

Guillier, the flagbearer for Bachelet’s Nueva Mayoria coalition, garnered just 23 percent of first round votes, the weakest performance by any center-left candidate since Chile’s return to democracy in 1990 and a reflection of broad discontent with Bachelet.Leftists complain her social policies are too timid while the conservative opposition says they have stoked market uncertainty and crimped private investment, causing average economic growth to slow to 1.8 percent per year under Bachelet.“I‘m voting for Pinera, he’s better for my work,” said Bea Vaccari, 28, a publicist from Argentina living in and registered to vote in Santiago.

Unlike most countries in Latin America, voting is not mandatory in Chile, a country of 17 million people with a $250 billion economy. While Sanchez has said she personally will vote for Guillier to protest Pinera, who led Chile between 2010 and 2014, it is not clear her supporters will do the same.