Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who has announced she is stepping down as head of the U.N. women's agency and will return to her homeland, will be named a candidate in the opposition coalition's presidential primary scheduled for April 13.

The announcement was made Saturday by Osvaldo Andrade, chairman of the main opposition Socialist Party, who also confirmed that the ex-president, the early favorite in the November presidential election, will arrive in Chile "before March 31."

"Once in Chile, Michelle Bachelet will make a statement about her availability to be a presidential candidate," he said on Channel 24 Horas.

The nomination for the primaries, Andrade said, will be made jointly by the Socialist Party and the Party for Democracy, or PPD, members of the center-left Concertacion coalition.

In a later statement on Radio Cooperativa, Andrade said that Bachelet "is the hope of many people in this country," adding that the ex-president will take on "all the debates necessary," and that the governing conservative National Renewal Party "is frightened" by her popular following.

"They're frightened, the right is terrified by Bachelet's return, because they know, understand and have seen, as has everybody else in this country, that she enjoys a prestige, a following of citizens and a significance to society that is immense," he said.

"Bachelet has become an international personality and that makes Chileans proud," he said.

In the opposition primaries on June 30, Bachelet will face Christian Democrat Claudio Orrego, the independent former finance minister Andres Velasco, and Sen. Jose Antonio Gomez of the Social Democratic Radical Party.

On the same day, the right will hold its primaries, pitting Laurence Golborne, ex-public works minister for President Sebastian Piñera, supported by the Independent Democratic Union, or UDI, against Andres Allamand, ex-defense minister and standard-bearer of the National Renewal party.

Piñera joined in the attacks on Bachelet when he told a press conference Saturday that when the ex-president comes back, she will find "a better country than she left."

During the Piñera administration, "economic growth and entrepreneurship have improved and unemployment has declined," he said, adding that the Concertacion coalition backing Bachelet "only sticks together out of a craving for power." EFE