November 19, 2017 / 10:23 PM / a year ago

Pinera ahead in Chile election vote, leftist surprises

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Conservative Sebastian Pinera took an early lead in Chile’s presidential election on Sunday evening, garnering 37 percent of votes, with nearly 23 percent of ballots counted, Chile’s electoral agency Servel said.

Leftist presidential hopeful Beatriz Sanchez garnered more votes than expected, raising the prospect she could face Pinera in a runoff next month.

Sanchez had 20.40 percent of votes compared to 22.59 percent for center-left Senator Alejandro Guillier, Servel said.

Chileans voted for a successor to President Michelle Bachelet. Former president Pinera was long the favourite to come in first but was not forecast to win the 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a December runoff.

Guillier had been expected to secure the coveted runner-up position in the first-round race of eight candidates, and the latest opinion poll had shown Sanchez trailing far behind him.

Sanchez, who represents the Frente Amplio bloc, has proposed billions of dollars in taxes on mining companies in the world’s top copper producer. She would also create a new social security system to replace the nation’s public-private pension scheme.

Reporting by Dave Sherwood, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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