Chileans are voting in a presidential election that could put a conservative in office for the first time since the country returned to democracy 19 years ago.

Chilean billionaire Sebastian Pinera is expected to emerge as the leader in the first round of voting Sunday, but is likely to fall short of the outright majority needed to avoid a run-off election in January.

Opinion polls show the conservative businessman leading the three other candidates vying to replace outgoing President Michelle Bachelet.

Mr. Pinera lost to Ms. Bachelet in the last presidential vote in 2006.

In a poll published before the voting, about 44 percent of likely voters favored Mr. Pinera.  Former President Eduardo Frei is expected to be his closest competitor.

Trailing in popularity polls are Socialist Senator Marco Enriquez-Ominami and leftist attorney Jorge Arrate.

Mr. Pinera, a Harvard-educated economist, owns a television station, a soccer (football) team and a stake in Lan Airlines.  If elected president, he is expected to steer Latin America's most stable economy toward more free-market policies. 

The government coalition known as the Concertacion has been in power in Chile since democracy was reinstated in 1990.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.