Former head of state Michelle Bachelet was poised to regain Chile's highest office after garnering 46.69 percent of the vote in the presidential balloting, easily outdistancing conservative ruling-coalition hopeful Evelyn Matthei in an election marked by low voter turnout.
Because she fell just short of an outright majority in Sunday's election, the candidate of the center-left New Majority alliance will square off in a Dec. 15 runoff against the Alliance for Chile's Matthei, an economist and former labor minister under current President Sebastian Piñera who received 25.01 percent of the vote.
With ballots counted from 98.66 percent of polling stations, the total number of votes cast stood at 6,599,973, equivalent to just 48.8 percent of registered voters.
Piñera, who was constitutionally barred from seeking two consecutive terms, lamented the low turnout in a speech from the La Moneda presidential palace, saying "undoubtedly our democracy is stronger and more legitimate when participation is greater."
But Bachelet hailed the result and said she was confident Chileans would back her again in the runoff.
She said voters supported her program of free and high-quality universal higher education, an increase in the corporate tax rate, a partial overhaul of the pension system, and a new constitution "that is born in democracy without traces of authoritarianism," referring to the current charter imposed on Chile in 1980 by dictator Augusto Pinochet.
"We're going to work to win in December. I have no doubt we'll achieve that," said Bachelet, who after serving as Chile's president from 2006 to 2010 headed up a U.N. body known as the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
The results of the congressional balloting remained uncertain Sunday night although the initial results and projections pointed to a victory for the opposition, which could increase its seats in the Senate to 22 out of a total of 38 elected seats.
Camila Vallejo, Gabriel Boric and Giorgio Jackson, activists who came to prominence in Chile's 2011 student uprising, appeared headed for election to Chile's lower house. EFE