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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 April, 2005, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Chile women fight over presidency
By Clinton Porteous
BBC News, Santiago

Michelle Bachelet
Michelle Bachelet was considered by many to have won the debate
Two women have fought a televised debate for the right to challenge for the presidency of Chile.

Polls suggest that whoever prevails between Michelle Bachelet and Soledad Alvear will go on to become president.

About four million people, or a quarter of Chile's population, tuned in to the first such debate between two women.

Five journalists quizzed the pair for more than an hour over themes ranging from taxes and poverty to gay marriages and human rights.

There was even a question about funeral arrangements for former president General Augusto Pinochet.

Male rival

The historic debate between two women was described as demonstrating a cultural shift in Chilean society. Chile is traditionally seen as socially conservative, and female participation in the workforce is still relatively low.

Soledad Alvear
Soledad Alvear wants to become Chile's first woman president

Before the debate opinion polls said Michelle Bachelet had a huge lead over her opponent and a telephone poll showed she comprehensively won the night.

There will be another televised debate in two months before the centre-left coalition, called the Concertacion, chooses its candidate for the presidential election in December.

The main rival is expected to be a male candidate, Joaquin Levin.

He represents the conservative alliance, which has lost the past three elections.

Polls indicate that Michelle Bachelet will win the primary race and the election and become Chile's first woman president.


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