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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 November 2005, 13:02 GMT
Chile candidates hold TV debate
Candidates for Chile's presidency during the TV debate
All candidates broadly agreed on how to fight poverty
Chile's presidential candidates have taken part in the last televised debate before the election in December.

It included Michelle Bachelet from the governing centre-left, Joaquin Lavin and Sebastian Pinera, both from the right, and leftist Thomas Hirsch.

They discussed a territorial dispute with Peru and how to fight poverty.

Opinion polls have consistently given a lead to Ms Bachelet, who is hoping to become Chile's first female president, but her support has recently slipped.

Santiago Mayor Joaquin Lavin and businessman Sebastian Pinera are tied for second place, with Mr Hirsch lagging well behind, polls suggest.

Observers say the election on 11 December could go to a run-off.

If elected, Ms Bachelet would be the fourth president in a row from the coalition known as the Concertacion, which has governed Chile since the end of General Augusto Pinochet's rule in 1990.

A socialist, she has served as health minister and defence minister.

Gay marriage

There were some sharp personal exchanges, during the televised debate.

But all candidates broadly agreed on poverty. They promised to bring more benefits from Chile's booming economy to the country's poor and support small businesses to create more jobs.

They also discussed relations with neighbouring Peru, which have deteriorated in recent months.

They agreed that they would defend Chile's sovereignty in the face of Peru's attempts to renegotiate maritime borders.

The strongest disagreement of the debate was on same-sex marriage, with only Mr Hirsch supporting it and the candidates from the right rejecting it.

Ms Bachelet said that Chilean society - often portrayed as ultra-conservative - was not ready for gay marriage.

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