Chile election: Bachelet and Matthei go to second round

"A bitter-sweet victory for Mrs Bachelet", reports Gideon Long from Santiago

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Left-wing candidate Michelle Bachelet has won the first round of voting in Chile's presidential election.

But with most of the votes counted, Ms Bachelet has conceded that she has failed to reach an outright majority and avoid a run-off.

She took nearly 47% of the vote. Her main rival, Evelyn Matthei, who was a minister in the centre-right government of Sebastian Pinera, got 25%.

A second round of voting will take place on 15 December.

"Reaching the second is undoubtedly a great triumph," Ms Matthei posted on her Twitter account.

"When this project began, many doubted we would be here. But here we are," she wrote.

Analysis

Michelle Bachelet and her supporters will be disappointed not to have won this election in the first round but, even so, it is difficult to see this result as anything other than "a victory postponed".

Ms Bachelet took 47% of the vote - almost twice as much as Evelyn Matthei. Ms Matthei will now have to hope she can pick up the votes of the seven other presidential candidates who failed it to make it through the first round.

But that is a very tall order - those seven candidates are leftists, populists and mavericks and their supporters are unlikely to throw their weight behind Ms Matthei.

The other thing that remains to be seen is what kind of majority Ms Bachelet will have in parliament, assuming she wins the run-off.

Chileans were voting for senators and deputies on Sunday as well as for the presidency, and the results of those elections won't be confirmed until later on Monday.

If Ms Bachelet is to push through her radical reform programme, she will need a clear majority in both houses. And under Chile's binominal voting system, that is difficult to achieve - even for a politician as popular as Ms Bachelet.

She told supporters in Santiago: "The country has mostly voted for the proposal that we have made for Chile, so that Chile will be once and for all the modern and fair country that we want."

"We won tonight and we will work to win by an ample margin in December."

Most opinion polls had indicated a victory for Ms Bachelet in the first round.

A paediatrician by training, Ms Bachelet was Chile's first woman president between 2006 and 2010.

She was constitutionally barred from serving a second successive term and was very popular when she left office.

Sunday's vote went ahead without major incidents.

But students, who for years have been staging protests demanding educational reform, occupied Ms Bachelet's campaign headquarters.

They laid out a banner outside the building which read: "Change is in the streets, not in the Moneda [Presidential Palace]."

Ms Matthei entered the race after two candidates of the centre-right alliance resigned, earlier this year: one for alleged financial irregularities, the other one after struggling with depression.

Evelyn Matthei voting, 17 Nov 2013 Evelyn Matthei was labour minister in Mr Pinera's government

Evelyn Matthei, 60, has called for a continuation of the policies of outgoing President Sebastian Pinera, asserting that Chileans are "better off" now than when he came to power four years ago.

Speaking after it became clear a second round would take place, she wrote on Twitter: "Let us fight for the votes of the other seven candidates now, and for those of Michelle Bachelet."

Ms Bachelet leads an alliance of her Socialist Party, Christian Democrats and Communists and has campaigned on policies designed to reduce the gap between rich and poor.

Chile is one of the richest countries in Latin America, but millions have staged protests over the past few years to push for a wider distribution of wealth and better education.

Ms Bachelet, 62, wants to increase taxes to offer free university education and reform political and economic structures dating from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled from 1973 to 1990.

Her manifesto this time is much more radical than before, says the BBC's Gideon Long in Santiago.

Chileans vote at the National Stadium in Santiago Some 13.5 million Chileans were eligible to vote

Ms Bachelet and Ms Matthei are the daughters of air force generals, once friends, who found themselves on opposite sides of the political divide once Gen Pinochet came to power.

As children in the 1950s, they were neighbours and used to play together on the airbase where their fathers worked.

Under Gen Pinochet, Evelyn Matthei's father, Fernando, rose up the ranks to run a military school.

Michelle Bachelet's father, Alberto, who worked for the Socialist administration overthrown by General Pinochet, died of a heart attack in 1974.

An investigation concluded that the 51-year-old general probably died of heart problems aggravated by torture sessions at the military academy.

A judge ruled earlier this year that General Matthei had no knowledge or involvement in the torture.

The lower house of congress and half the senate are also being elected.

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