Socialist Michelle Bachelet has taken a strong lead in Chile's presidential election.

With more than half the ballots counted, Ms. Bachelet has almost 46 percent of the vote from Sunday's poll to determine a successor to President Ricardo Lagos.

Ms. Bachelet is a single mother and former defense minister who was tortured during General Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship. She would be Chile's first woman president.

If she fails to win 50 percent of the vote, a run-off election will be held January 15.

She may face-off against right wing candidate and billionaire businessman Sebastian Pinera, who is currently running second with almost 26 per cent of the vote. Former Santiago mayor Joaquin Lavin is third with 23 percent.

Chileans also elected all 120 members of their lower house of parliament and 20 out of the country's 38 senators.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AFP.