Chile Elects First Right-Wing President in 52 Years

BY Larisa Epatko  January 18, 2010 at 9:15 PM EDT

Chileans voted Sunday for billionaire Sebastian Pinera to become the first right-wing elected president since 1958.

Pinera was declared the victor against the government candidate, former president Eduardo Frei of the center-left coalition Concertacion. Outgoing President Michelle Bachelet, who was constitutionally barred from seeking re-election, threw her support to Frei, who will continue as a senator.

Pinera ran on a platform of creating jobs and boosting economic growth, and said he would build on the government’s social policies, extend the government’s benefits to the middle classes and would refrain from making any major changes in policy, said Pascale Bonnefoy of GlobalPost.

“This is a really big change in the country, a radical change,” Bonnefoy explained late Monday. “A lot of people don’t really know where it’s going to lead to. Pinera has often said that he’s going to build on the current government’s social policies, extend this government’s benefits to the middle-classes and won’t really make any radical changes or shifts in policies.”

But since the country has been without a right-wing leader for decades, labor groups, students and professional guilds have expressed some concerns over what his policies will be, she added.

Bonnefoy describes more in this audio report from Chile: