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Last Updated: Monday, 10 September 2007, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Guatemala heads for run-off vote
Alvaro Colom
Alvaro Colom is making his third bid for the presidency
Guatemala is heading for a second round in the presidential election as results indicate no candidate has secured an outright win after Sunday's vote.

Former general Otto Perez Molina is set to face centre-left businessman Alvaro Colom on 4 November after a tight race.

Sunday's voting, which was also for parliamentary and local elections, followed one of the bloodiest campaigns in the country's history.

More than 50 candidates, activists and their relatives were killed.

As results came in, there were disturbances in several parts of the country, including in at least five communities where police used tear gas to disperse protesters, Guatemalan media reported.

GUATEMALA ELECTION FACTS
14 presidential candidates
5.9m registered voters out of pop of 14.6m
Run-off on 4 Nov if no-one wins more than 50%

However, the head of a European Union mission monitoring the election, Wolfgang Kreissl Dorfler, told the BBC's World Today programme that voting had gone well.

"In [comparison] with four years ago, the situation is really quiet. What we have seen is a very well organised election at all the polling stations, especially because the participation of young women and the young people here is very high."

Murder rate

Preliminary results announced by the electoral authorities as votes were counted gave Mr Colom 27% and Mr Perez Molina 25%.

Alejandro Giammattei, from President Oscar Berger's party, was trailing in third place.

Otto Perez Molina
Otto Perez Molina has promised a "strong fist" against crime

Nobel peace laureate Rigoberta Menchu, the best-known internationally, was sixth in a field of 14 candidates.

The bloody election campaign highlighted the levels of crime in Guatemala.

With nearly 6,000 people killed in 2006, Guatemala has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Both Mr Colom of the National Unity of Hope Party (UNE) and Mr Perez Molina, who is standing for the Patriotic Party (PP), have vowed to tackle crime and poverty.

Mr Colom, who is running for the presidency for the third time in a row, has promised to overhaul the security forces and the judicial system, which many criticise for being slow, corrupt and inefficient.

Mr Perez Molina, who was the head of army intelligence, has pledged to increase the size of the police force by 50% and revive the death penalty.

Street gangs

Guatemala is still suffering the after-effects of the 1960-1996 civil war between leftist rebels and successive military governments, which left nearly a quarter of a million people dead or missing.

Some of the violent paramilitary fighters who were involved in the civil war are now part of organised crime gangs, analysts say.

Guatemala's growing role as a transit point for large shipments of cocaine has also allowed criminals to wield more influence.

Youth gangs, known as "maras", hold sway in some neighbourhoods and prisons.

Some estimates put their membership higher than that of the 19,000-strong police force.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Guatemalan voters at the polls



SEE ALSO
Amnesty pleads for Guatemala calm
30 Aug 07 |  Americas
EU alarm at Guatemala violence
24 Aug 07 |  Americas
Guatemala campaign deaths mount
14 Aug 07 |  Americas
Crime dominates Guatemala campaign
10 May 07 |  Americas
Guatemala's epidemic of killing
09 Jun 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Guatemala
25 Aug 07 |  Country profiles

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