Paraguay votes in close presidential election

Other News Materials 20 April 2008 17:22 (UTC +04:00)

Paraguayans went to the polls Sunday in a tight presidential election that pits a former bishop, a woman and a former coup leader against each other. ( dpa )

According to opinion polls, the vote could lead to a historic change in government, should it not be won by Blanca Ovelar. Her party, the Partido Colorado, has ruled Paraguay since 1947.

Ovelar's main rivals were set to be former Roman Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo, who led in pre-election polls, and General Lino Oviedo, who helped overthrow the country's long-time dictator Alfredo Stroessner in 1989.

Polling stations were scheduled to open at 7:00 am (1100 GMT) and to close nine hours later. The results of exit polls are allowed to be made public as soon as voting is over.

A simple majority on election day will be enough for the winner to be elected to succeed outgoing President Nicanor Duarte Frutos, with a five-year mandate.

Some 2.8 million Paraguayans are entitled to vote Sunday. Beyond the president, they are set to elect 45 new senators, 80 provincial legislators, 17 governors and 400 district councillors, as well as the country's representatives in the regional parliament of the South American trade bloc Mercosur.

Voting is compulsory in Paraguay for anyone aged 18-75.