Chile’s presidential election campaign has drawn to a close with polls showing the country could be about to vote in its first woman leader.
Leftist candidate Michelle Bachelet is leading in surveys, although she may not get the 50 per cent of votes needed to avoid a run-off ballot in January.
The doctor, who is a former defence minister, was imprisoned and tortured during the Pinochet dictatorship.
She has campaigned on a promise to continue the free-market reforms and social programmes of President Ricardo Lagos, who cannot run for re-election this time around.
Bachelot belongs to the same centre-left group as Lagos that has run the country since the end of the Pinochet regime in 1990. Her main rival is Sebastian Pinera, a centre-right candidate who is trailing Bachelet by almost 20 percentage points.
The investment banker and former senator, is one of Chile’s wealthiest men. He entered the race in May to the surprise of rival conservative hopeful Joaquin Lavin, who polls show is now running third. He had expected the backing of both parties in the right-wing coalition. Both men have targeted the ruling centre-left coalition over Chile’s rising crime rate and persistently high unemployment.
The election takes place on Sunday.