Ex-rebel Mujica leading Uruguay vote: exit polls
Former left-wing guerrilla leader Jose Mujica was leading in exit polls from Uruguay's presidential election on Sunday, but pollsters said it was unclear if he won enough votes to avoid a run-off, Reuters reported.
Experts from the respected Factum, Cifra and Equipos polling groups, speaking in separate television interviews, did not provide polling numbers for Mujica or his main rival, conservative former President Luis Lacalle.
Mujica, a senator from the ruling Broad Front leftist coalition, needs to win more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off.
Pre-election polls showed Mujica, 74, a plain-talking senator who fought with the Tupamaros movement during the 1960s and early 1970s, easily finishing first but just short of an outright majority to avoid a runoff.
Lacalle, who held office from 1990 to 1995, has sought to capitalize on some voter resistance to Mujica's militant past.
The winner will replace President Tabare Vazquez, Uruguay's first socialist leader, who leaves office highly popular after five years of vigorous economic expansion in the small, beef-exporting country between Brazil and Argentina.
Mujica is competing for the presidency as part of the ruling party Broad Front coalition, a grouping of socialists and other leftist parties that came to power four years ago in South America's regionwide political shift to the left.
Some Uruguayan business leaders worry Mujica could veer Uruguay more sharply to the left even though he has pledged to stay on a free-market track.
Mujica has sought to temper the concerns about his days as a guerrilla. "We're all in the same boat," he said after voting on Sunday.
Uruguay, like Chile and Brazil, has become a model of stability and moderate leftism in Latin America, as other countries have elected more radical leaders.