Former President Michelle Bachelet has won the run-off election in Chile to make her return to power. She plans to launch ambitious reforms aimed at redressing steep income inequality.
With 90 percent of the votes counted after Sunday's poll, Bachelet had an unbeatable 62 percent to 38 percent for the center-right's Evelyn Matthei, who has conceded defeat. "I hope she does very well. No one who loves Chile can wish otherwise," Matthei said.
The 62-year-old Bachelet will take over power in March next year from the outgoing conservative Sebastian Pinera.
Bachelet served as president from 2006-2010. She left office with 84 percent approval ratings and went on to run the United Nation's women's agency from New York.
She has a new center-left coalition and promises to finance education with higher corporate taxes, reduce the wealth gap, protect the environment and reform the constitution.
Plans to reform Chile's largely privatized education system, which critics charge unfairly favors the wealthy, will include working toward free higher education, ending state subsistence of for-profit schools, and opening more nurseries and pre-schools. The education reform will require a permanent reallocation of 1.5 percent to 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
The coalition plans to gradually raise corporate taxes to 25 percent from 20 percent. Along with other tax changes, the increased take would be equivalent to 3 percent of GDP - about $8.5 billion dollars (6.2 billion euros) at current levels.
"This is an important day and I hope people can come and participate and through their vote give a clear expression of the kind of Chile where they want to continue to live," Bachelet said after voting in her Santiago neighborhood of La Reina. "The changes we need can't be produced through skepticism." The overall cost of her reform program is estimated at $15 billion.
It was Chile's first election choice between two women candidates and the first presidential election after voter registration became automatic. The change increased the electorate from 8 million to 13.5 million of the country's nearly 17 million people. But voting became optional with the change, and only 50 percent of voters turned out in the first round and turnout was reported at just 41 percent in the second round.
jm/lw (AP, AFP)