December 13, 1999
Chile presidential race to be decided in runoff

                  SANTIAGO, Chile (CNN) -- The two top candidates in Chile's
                  presidential race are headed for a January runoff after neither garnered
                  the simple majority needed to win outright in the country's most
                  competitive election since the restoration of civilian rule in 1990.

                  Socialist Ricardo Lagos was barely ahead of right-wing candidate Joaquin
                  Lavin with 99.33 percent of the vote counted, official results showed on

                  Lagos, of the center-left ruling Concertacion coalition, had 47.96 percent
                  support to Lavin's 47.52 percent, meaning both were still short of the 50
                  percent majority needed to win outright and avoid a runoff on January 16.

                  Both sides admitted that the vote had not yielded a clear victor and a decision
                  would have to wait until the second round.

                  "The story has not ended today, because results are very close and will
                  remain so," Lagos said. "I am a democrat, and I respect the people's voice.
                  I have understood the message the people have given us today, and I will
                  continue to work tomorrow to seek that victory."

                  Lavin did not immediately talk to reporters, but his top campaign aide,
                  Juan Coloma, also acknowledged that Sunday's results would force a
                  second round.

                  Rivals similar despite party differences

                  The two men come from very different backgrounds. Both men have been
                  linked in the past to Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet; Lavin as a
                  supporter, Lagos as an opponent.

                  Lavin advised the Pinochet regime on media issues while Lagos has political
                  connections to former President Salvador Allende, whom Pinochet toppled
                  in a bloody coup in September 1973. This is Chile's third presidential
                  election since Pinochet left office in 1990.

                  Both men have avoided the issue of Pinochet in their campaigns in a tacit
                  accord not to mention Lavin's links to the dictator when he was editor of the
                  influential daily El Mercurio or Lagos' connections with Allende.

                  However, they agree that if Pinochet is going to be tried for alleged human
                  rights abuses during his 17-year dictatorship, then the trial should be held in
                  Chile. Pinochet is being held by Britain while Spain seeks his extradition for
                  a trial after an indictment was issued by a Spanish judge.

                  Despite their deep political differences, Lagos and Lavin offered similar
                  economic platforms to take Chile out of its deep recession. They promised
                  to maintain free market policies and committed themselves to reviving
                  economic growth to 6 percent annually or more.

                  Lagos, a lawyer and economist, is seeking to become Chile's first socialist
                  president since Allende. He wants to change the constitution inherited from
                  Pinochet, which he considers undemocratic.

                  In his campaign, Lavin focused on "the problems that interest people," such
                  as unemployment and crime. He has tried to capitalize on the recession and
                  11 percent unemployment that hit Chile last year after 15 years of steady
                  growth, blaming the downturn on the governing coalition that is backing

                  Four other candidates -- a communist, a humanist, an environmentalist and
                  an independent rightist -- received marginal votes, but their supporters could
                  play a decisive role in the runoff.

                  Some 8 million voters have registered for the compulsory elections.