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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May, 2005, 04:54 GMT 05:54 UK
Alvear quits race to lead Chile
Soledad Alvear
Soledad Alvear says her former rival will now become president
One of the women vying to become the presidential candidate for Chile's ruling coalition has quit the race.

Former Foreign Minister Soledad Alvear cleared the way for Michelle Bachelet to be nominated, throwing her weight behind her former rival.

Ms Alvear, who had been trailing Ms Bachelet in the opinion polls, said she was pulling out for the sake of unity.

The same polls suggest Ms Bachelet will win December's election and become Chile's first woman president.

"For the sake of Chile, my party and our coalition, I have decided to put an end to my presidential candidacy," said Ms Alvear, of the Christian Democrats, one of the parties in the centre-left Concertacion coalition.

"This way Michelle Bachelet becomes the only candidate of the Concertacion and the future president of Chile."

Opposition split

Until recently the Concertacion nominee would have faced a single opposition candidate.

Michelle Bachelet
Michelle Bachelet has an anti-Pinochet history
But 10 days ago the right-wing opposition split after 15 years, leaving a three-horse race for president.

The other two contenders are conservative Joaquin Lavin and newly declared centre-right businessman Sebastian Pinera.

Ms Bachelet, a former defence minister and health minister, has outlined few policies but has conducted her campaign based mostly on her charisma and history.

She was imprisoned briefly and went into exile after the coup of 1973 that put Gen Augusto Pinochet in power, while her father died in the regime's custody.

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