The FINANCIAL — According to RIA Novosti, center-right candidate Sebastian Pinera is likely to get a historic win in the Chilean presidential runoff, with 99% of the ballots counted, the Spanish EFE news agency has said.
Patricio Rosende, the country's deputy foreign minister representing the Central Election Commission, was quoted as saying the 60-year-old billionaire businessman garnered 51.61% of the Sunday's vote.
Pinera's rival, 67-year-old Eduardo Frei representing the governing center-left coalition, has gained 48.38%.
If Pinera wins the second round, he will become the first right-wing leader since dictator Augusto Pinochet stepped down in 1990.
The winner will succeed Michelle Bachelet, the incumbent Chilean president, on March 11, 2010. According to the Chilean Constitution, a president is elected for a single four-year term.
In the first round of the election held on December 13, Pinera garnered 44.03% of the vote while Frei, who was Chile's president from 1994 to 2000, received 29.62%.
Bachelet, who earlier called for Chileans to vote for Frei, congratulated Pinera on his victory.
"Today, the people elected you the president of the republic, and I hope that Chile could continue its way towards justice and social development, which we have gone along during the past 20 years," she was quoted by EFE as saying.
In his turn, Pinera asked the incumbent presidents to help him "continue many good initiatives, undertaken during the period of her ruling."
Almost all of more than 8 million Chileans eligible for voting cast their ballots on Sunday. Voting is obligatory in the Latin American state.