Written by Staff Writer
Claudia Tomarchio, CNN
With just one day left until the start of what is shaping up to be an unforgettable moment in Chilean democracy, poll results show that two polar opposite candidates are heading to a run-off vote next week.
Since Sunday’s first round of voting , an increasing majority of the nearly 8 million Chileans eligible to vote have selected populist center-left presidential hopeful Sebastian Pinera to advance to a run-off against socialist Barbara Pinera.
But over in the left-leaning ranks, center-left Hugo Briceño has claimed a convincing victory over conservative challenger Evelyn Matthei.
With 79% of votes counted, Briceño had won 40.3% of the ballots — a large jump from his share of 24.9% in Sunday’s first round. And he’s got until next Sunday to prove his strength against his opponents.
Stunningly, Pablo Longueira was also confirmed as the winner in Sunday’s first round of voting for the Pacific Northwest region.
At the end of last week, the final results were still tentative for Buenos Aires province, which is led by Briceño.
But on Sunday, the polls showed him to be as safe as a bond — winning an unassailable 64.8% of the ballots, putting him in a position to claim a second round run-off win.
It’s a critical moment for the right-wing candidate, because he is behind in the single biggest province — the capital Santiago.
Juan Valdes, 44, a journalist and one of the winning candidates, admitted that it could prove to be a difficult run-off campaign.
“I don’t know how I will get this run-off. I hope that this vote will carry us through the difficult period, but we have to work very hard to get the second round and win.”
Ahead of Sunday’s vote, Briceño stressed the importance of Chile’s ties with the United States — a major pillar of the current Chilean government’s foreign policy.
“The continuity of the center-left government in Chile is very important for relations with the United States and, at the same time, I am conscious of the critical situation the Latino countries are in,” he said.
The results of the election for Parliament — the unicameral Chamber of Deputies and the Senate — are set to be announced on Wednesday.
Partial results show conservative candidates Sebastián Piñera and Matias Borge do Nascimento in a run-off for the Senate, and Sebastián Piñera is yet to be confirmed as the winning candidate for the lower house.