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Chile election: Conservative billionaire wins first round

Sebastian Piñera, a conservative billionaire, won 44 percent of the vote in Chile's election on Sunday, putting the left at risk of losing the helm for the first time since right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet stepped down nearly 20 years ago.

Chilean right-wing opposition alliance presidential candidate Sebastian Pinera holds a Chilean flag in Santiago on Sunday after he finished first in the general elections.

Ivan Alvarado/Reuters

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Conservative billionaire Sebastian Piñera garnered the most votes in Chile's election Sunday, but he did not win enough to avoid a run-off vote on Jan. 17.

Now Chile's fractured left faces a tough battle to defeat him in the second round. If they don't, the left will lose the helm of the country for the first time since right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet stepped down nearly 20 years ago.

Mr. Piñera, who ran on a campaign of change, got 44 percent of votes and will face Eduardo Frei, from the ruling leftist alliance who captured 30 percent of votes, according to nearly complete official results.

Mr. Frei, of the Concertacion alliance, has played up the right's link to Mr. Pinochet's dictatorship. A vote for Piñera, he maintains, is a vote for Chile's dark past.

Some voters believe the message, fearing that the right will reverse years of social protection put in place by the Concertacion.

“I am poor, and I am worried that we will lose everything we have earned,” especially worker´s rights and support for single mothers, says Eva Rivera, a Frei supporter who lost her job as a salesperson this year. “We are on the right course with the Concertacion.”

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