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Voting starts in Paraguayan elections


08:18, April 22, 2013

An employee carries electoral material at the building of Paraguay's Supreme Court of Electoral Justice, during the preparations for the 2013 General Elections, in the city of Asuncion, capital of Paraguay, on April 20, 2013. Over 3.5 millions of Paraguayans will vote during the General Elections to renew president, vice president, parliament and the legislative organs of departments, which will be held on Sunday, according to the local press reports. (Xinhua/Rene Gonzalez)

MEXICO CITY, April 21 (Xinhua) -- Paraguayans are going to the polls Sunday to elect a president, lawmakers and governors among other officials.

Voting began at 7:00 a.m. local time (1100 GMT) and the 1,046 polling stations will remain open till 4:00 p.m, electoral officials said.

More than three million Paraguayans, at home and abroad, are registered to vote for a president, a vice president, 45 senators and 80 deputies, 17governors and 17 local councils, as well as the country's representatives to the regional Parliament of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur).

Under the constitution, the president, also the head of the government, is elected by popular vote with a five-year term. Candidates win by simple majority in the one-round voting.

This year, 11 candidates are running for the presidency.

Surveys show the top three candidates are businessman-turned-politician Horacio Cartes, ruling Liberal Party candidate Efrain Alegre and TV presenter Mario Ferreiro, of the left-leaning coalition Avanza Pais.

The latest pre-election survey had Cartes leading with more than 45 percent support. The former tobacco tycoon is Paraguay's former long-time ruling Colorado Party candidate, having joined the party in 2009.

Alegre, the second most favored candidate was trained as a lawyer and has sat in both of Paraguay's houses of parliament. He also served as minister of public works and communications.

The winner is scheduled to take office on Aug. 15, succeeding Federico Franco, who has led the country since former president Fernando Lugo's impeachment.

Lugo was ousted in June 2012 by the opposition-controlled legislature after a police eviction of farmers left 17 people dead.

The impeachment was largely seen in South America as a disguised coup d'etat and some regional bodies, including the Mercosur, suspended Paraguay's membership over the issue.

To ensure a fair and transparent election, leading regional bodies have sent monitors to the country.

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