Guatemala Presidential Vote Heads to Second Round

Posted September 12th, 2011 at 1:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Guatemala's presidential election will head to a second round after a former army general promising a crackdown on the country's rampant crime failed to secure a majority of votes.

With most of the ballots counted from Sunday's first round, election officials said Monday Otto Perez Molina led the poll with more than 36 percent of the vote. But he needed more than 50 percent support to avoid a runoff.

Perez will face conservative businessman Manuel Baldizon in the runoff, expected to be held in November. Election officials said Baldizon has won about one-quarter of the votes.

Pre-election opinion polls in Guatemala favored the 60-year-old Perez of the Patriotic Party as the leading candidate in Sunday's vote.

Perez would be the first former military leader elected in the Central American nation since the end of its military dictatorships. He has promised a “firm hand” against Guatemala's growing gang problem, spilling over from neighboring Mexico.

The campaigns have focused on who will do the best job in controlling Guatemala's widespread crime, primarily linked to drug trafficking.

The winner will take over in January, replacing President Alvaro Colom, who is barred by law from running for re-election.