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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 November, 2003, 16:27 GMT
Guatemala general 'accepts loss'
Guatemala's former military leader Efrain Rios Montt seen voting
Rios Montt has overshadowed Guatemalan politics for decades
Former Guatemalan military ruler Efrain Rios Montt has accepted defeat in the presidential election, says his vice-presidential running-mate.

Edin Barrientos was speaking in a radio interview after partial results showed General Rios Montt trailing in third place with 17% of the vote.

He said: "The people have the right to choose, and for us this is democracy."

The two front-runners, Oscar Berger and Alvaro Colom, will face each other in a run-off on 28 December.

There had been fears that General Rios Montt's defeat would prompt violent demonsrations by his supporters, who include former paramilitary groups.

However, only sporadic protests have been reported since results from Sunday's election began to emerge.

'Clear result'

General Rios Montt has not been seen in public since election day, when he was met with whistles and boos as he arrived to cast his vote at a polling station in Guatemala City.

Mr Barrientos dismissed suggestions that the general would challenge the result.

"The results are clear and we have nothing to dispute," he said. "Everyone knows that to run for office is to put forward your proposals and if they aren't accepted, you can't be sad about it."

With two-thirds of the votes counted, conservative Oscar Berger is in the lead with 38%, followed by centre-left candidate Alvaro Colom with 28%.

As neither of the two front-runners won more than 50% of the vote, they will face each other in a second round.

Sunday's election, marked by a huge turnout, was only the second presidential contest in Guatemala since peace accords in 1996 ended a 36-year civil war.

Controversial candidate

General Rios Montt's candidacy was controversial because of his past as the leader of a military coup in 1982.

There were too many people who wanted to vote
Oscar Edmundo Bolanos

His name was included on the ballot despite a constitutional rule that no-one who had overthrown a government could stand for the presidency.

The run-up to the election was marred by incidents of violence. More than 22 people connected with political parties have been killed since campaigning began in May.

There were riots in Guatemala City in June in support of Mr Rios Montt when it looked as if he would be barred from standing.

Late on Saturday, Ronaldo Morales - a political secretary of one of the leading contenders, Mr Colom - was shot and injured by unidentified gunmen at his home.

Mr Morales' wife said the attack was politically motivated.

Big turnout

During Sunday's voting, two women were killed in a stampede at a polling station as a crowd rushed to cast their ballots.

People queued for hours to vote, many having travelled for hours to reach voting stations from the country's remote jungle and mountain regions.

"There were too many people who wanted to vote," said Oscar Edmundo Bolanos, president of the national electoral board.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Michael Voss
"Election observers say turnout was high"



SEE ALSO:
Guatemala general beaten in poll
11 Nov 03  |  Americas
Press hails Guatemala voters
10 Nov 03  |  Americas
Establishing Guatemalan democracy
08 Nov 03  |  Americas
General to run in Guatemala
31 Jul 03  |  Americas
Guatemala City hit by riot
25 Jul 03  |  Americas
Guatemala coup leader defies ban
08 Jun 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Guatemala
11 Jul 03  |  Country profiles


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