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Last Updated: Monday, 29 December, 2003, 05:27 GMT
Ex-mayor 'wins Guatemalan poll'
Oscar Berger celebrates his election success
Oscar Berger had strong support from business leaders
Officials in Guatemala have declared Oscar Berger the winner of the presidential run-off vote.

But his opponent Alvaro Colom has refused to concede defeat yet, hoping for a late rally.

With almost all the ballots counted, Mr Berger, 57, a conservative former mayor of Guatemala City, is said to have an unassailable lead over Mr Colom, 52.

It is the second presidential election since a peace deal ended Guatemala's 36-year civil war in 1996.

Light voting

Mr Berger declared himself the winner with results showing him leading Mr Colom 56% to 44% with 70% of votes counted.

The election commission said preliminary tallies could change a great deal, but the BBC's Greg Morsbach says Mr Berger's win is expected to be confirmed.

A pedestrian walks in front of election campaign posters of Oscar Berger, in Guatemala City
Polling stations were mostly quiet for the second round
International election observers visiting Guatemala said the turnout had been lower than expected.

But they added that the election passed off peacefully without the violence and intimidation seen in November's first round when 58% of voters went to the polls.

Security had been tight amid fears that supporters of the former military ruler, General Efrain Rios Montt, would again take to the streets to hamper the election process after their candidate was defeated in the first round.

Our correspondent says one of the first challenges Mr Berger will have to face is to decide what to do about the former dictator.

Many Guatemalans are demanding that the general be brought to justice for alleged crimes, such as corruption and murder, committed during his presidency in the early 1980s.

Mr Colom, who called himself the "candidate of the poor", had vowed to bring Mr Rios Montt to justice for the alleged killing of hundreds of civilians during his rule in the early 1980s.

The former military ruler loses his parliamentary immunity from prosecution on 14 January, when he has to give up his seat as a member of Guatemala's congress.

Mr Berger lost to the current President, Alfonso Portillo, in 1999.

But after a landslide victory five years ago, President Portillo has been accused of corruption and has seen his party lose ground in Congress.

The BBC's Peter Greste
"Guatemala has a new president"

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Country profile: Guatemala
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