Michelle Bachelet wins 73pc of votes in Chilean presidential election primary

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 July, 2013, 3:42am


Marking a triumphant return to politics, former Chilean president Dr Michelle Bachelet has won the right to run for another four-year term in November.

The surgeon-turned-politician won an overwhelming 73 per cent of votes cast in Sunday's primary. Her closest opponent for the nomination of the centre-left coalition New Majority was Andres Velasco, with 12.9 per cent.

Bachelet, who was president from 2006 to 2010, has remained extremely popular with Chileans, and is favoured to win the election.

The incumbent, Sebastian Pinera, is not eligible to run for re-election.

The primary among candidates seeking to represent Pinera's party, the centre-right coalition called Government Alliance, was much closer. Former economy minister Pablo Longueira led former defence minister Andres Allamand by a thin margin, 51.3 per cent to 48.7 per cent.

The voting comes as Chile's commodities-driven economy has begun to cool, leading to widespread demonstrations by students, teachers and professors demanding free tuition from kindergarten to university.

Bachelet has promised that if she is elected she will push through a law to phase in free tuition at all levels by 2020. She has also promised to lessen Chile's income extremes, partly by raising corporate taxes and tax-collection rates.

"Today's triumph is not the victory of one person, but of millions of Chileans," Bachelet said in a speech after the results were announced. "It's a project where the voices of citizens are vital. It's the triumph of the demand for education that is free, dignified and of quality for every child."

Bachelet, 61, was tortured during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship that held power from 1973 to 1990.

Additional reporting by Associated Press