Pinera elected Chile's president

Jan. 17, 2010 at 10:36 PM

SANTIAGO, Chile, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Sebastian Pinera won Chile's presidential election Sunday, becoming the first conservative leader since Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship ended two decades ago.

Pinera, a 60-year-old billionaire, had garnered 51.6 percent of the vote to ruling coalition candidate Eduardo Frei's 48.3 percent with 99 percent of polling places reporting, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Frei, a former president who conceded defeat Sunday evening, noted his center-left Concertacion coalition had overseen Chile's transition from a dictatorship to a democracy.

"Chile is much better than the country we received in 1990," he said.

Pinera's four-year term begins in March, when he succeeds the popular President Michelle Bachelet, who was forbidden by the constitution to serve consecutive terms.

The Harvard-trained Pinera has interests in Chile's biggest airline, a soccer club and a television station. He pledged to be an "entrepreneurial president" and strive for more efficiency in the government while stimulating private investment.

Riordan Roett, a Latin America scholar at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said Piñera's victory represented "the arrival in power of the democratic right that has traveled a long road from pseudo-fascism to mainstream politics."

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