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Chile kicks off general elections

Updated: 2013-11-17 19:46
( Xinhua)

SANTIAGO - More than 13.5 million Chileans went to the polls on Sunday to choose their new president among nine candidates.

The voting, the sixth since the end of the 1973-90 military regime of Augusto Pinochet, started at 8:00 a.m. local time (1100 GMT) and will end at 18:00 (2100 GMT).

Preliminary official results will be announced after 19:30 (2230 GMT). There are 2,012 polling stations in 365 municipalities across the country.

A presidential candidate needs an absolute majority of votes to be declared the winner. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes, the two front-runners will compete in a December 15 runoff. The winner will succeed President Sebastian Pinera on March 14, 2014.

Nine candidates are running for the presidency. According to latest opinion polls, Michelle Bachelet, from the center-left New Majority coalition and ex-president, gained 47 percent of support, followed by her closest rival Evelyn Matthei, candidate of the ruling Coalition for Change, garnering 21.7 percent, independent candidate Franco Parisi with 7.9 percent and candidate of the Progressive Party Marco Enriquez-Ominami 7.2 percent.

All of the 120 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 20 out of the 38 seats in the Senate will be contested during the congressional election.