January 15, 2006 Posted at 6:07 PM EST

Associated Press

Santiago — A socialist doctor and former political prisoner was elected as Chile’s first female president Sunday, with her conservative multimillionaire opponent conceding defeat in a race that reflected Latin America’s increasingly leftward tilt.

With 67 per cent of some eight million votes counted, Michelle Bachelet had 53 per cent of the vote to nearly 47 per cent for Sebastian Pinera, who congratulated his opponent on her victory but vowed “to continue to fight for our principles, which do not die today.”

Sunday’s run-off was necessary after a Dec. 11. election involving four candidates failed to produce a winner with a majority. In that race, Ms. Bachelet had nearly 46 per cent and Mr. Pinera 25 per cent.

Mr. Pinera on Sunday congratulated Ms. Bachelet as “president-elect” as he conceded defeat.

Ms. Bachelet — a political prisoner during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet and later defence minister for a centre-left government — becomes Chile’s first female president. Her victory extends the rule of the centre-left coalition that has governed since the end of Gen. Pinochet’s 1973-90 rule.

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