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Pinera leads presidential vote in Chile as 12% of ballots counted

RIA Novosti

02:30 14/12/2009 BUENOS AIRES, December 14 (RIA Novosti) - With more than 12% of ballots counted, a center-right leader Sebastian Pinera leads the presidential vote in Chile, according to the deputy interior minister, who represents the country's central election authority.

Pinera, a billionaire businessman, has received 44.6% of the vote, Patricio Rosende said. Pinera's main election rival, 67-year-old former president from the governing centre-left coalition, Eduardo Frei, garnered 32.08% of the vote.

Independent lawmaker and former film director, Marco Enriquez-Ominami received 17.78% of the vote. Communist Jorge Arrate trails behind with 5.45% of the vote.

Exit polls also indicate that Pinera won the elections. The national television said he secured 46% of the vote, while Frei came second with 30%. The Bio Bio radio station said Pinera took the lead with 45.13% of the vote, and Frei came second with 27.5%, followed by Enriquez-Ominami (20.1%) and Jorge Arrate (7.2%).

According to forecasts, no candidate in the presidential polls is likely to gain more than 50% of vote. If this is the case, a run-off will be held on January 17, 2010.

Analysts say the elections are likely to see the end of 20 years of center-left rule.

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.

The voters also elected 120 lawmakers of the parliament's lower chamber, and 38 members of the upper chamber.

The elections took place in a relatively calm atmosphere with about 17,000 police officers to guarantee security at 388 polling stations. They closed at 19:00 local time [19:00 GMT].

The turnout has not been announced, but at least 160,000 of almost 8.3 million registered voters are so far known to abstain from vote.

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