Polls open in Chilean elections

Last Updated: Sunday, December 13, 2009 - 16:05

Santiago: Poll opened on Sunday in Chilean general elections that are likely to propel to the presidency a conservative billionaire who is challenging the centre-left coalition`s 20-year rule.
Balloting began at 7:00 am (1000 GMT) and was expected to end at 4:00 pm (1900 GMT), with first official results due for release around three hours later.

There are 8.3 million registered voters in Chile, with a bias towards an older electorate because of apathy among the country`s youth.

Sebastian Pinera, 60, whose fortune is put at USD 1.2 billion by Forbes magazine, has a solid lead over his leftwing rivals, former president Eduardo Frei, 67, and a charismatic former film director, Marco Enriquez-Ominami, 36, according to voter intention surveys.

Should Pinera win, it would mean a return to rightwing rule for Chile -- a prosperous South American nation that is the world`s biggest copper producer -- for the first time since the end of General Augusto Pinochet`s 1974-1990 military dictatorship.

Sunday`s elections will also renew Chile`s 120-seat Chamber of Deputies and 20 of the 38 members of the Senate.

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First Published: Sunday, December 13, 2009 - 16:05

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