Chilean voters poised to elect their first female president


World Digest

December 12, 2005|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Voters in this conservative Andean country were on track to elect their first female president yesterday in one of Latin America's most closely watched electoral races.

With 56 percent of ballots counted last night, Michelle Bachelet was leading with 46 percent of the vote, far ahead of second-place candidate Sebastian Pinera at 26 percent.

Chilean law requires a runoff if no candidate wins more than half of the first-round vote.

Polls show Bachelet easily winning such a runoff, scheduled for Jan. 15, and the 54-year-old physician told supporters yesterday that Chileans were poised to solidify her historic presidency.

If victorious, she would become not only her country's first woman president, but also the second woman to be elected head of state in South American history. Guyana elected Janet Jagan, widow of longtime President Cheddi Jagan, in 1997.

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