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Former bishop claims Paraguay election

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Colorado Party candidate Blanca Ovelar concedes defeat
  • NEW: Ex-bishop Fernando Lugo has comfortable lead with half of votes counted
  • Lugo campaigned on a platform of helping the poor and indigenous
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(CNN) -- Six decades of single-party rule in Paraguay came to an end on Sunday after Colorado Party candidate Blanca Ovelar conceded a loss to former Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo, who claimed the historic win on his promise to help the poor.


Fernando Lugo gives the thumb's up from vote results Sunday in Asuncion, Paraguay.

With more than half of the 14,000 precincts reporting, Lugo, backed by the Patriotic Alliance for Change, claimed 41 percent of the votes, according to the preliminary results reported by the government's election department.

Ovelar had 30 percent of the votes before she stepped down as a candidate, and Lino Oviedo, of the National Union of Ethical Citizens, had 21 percent.

Nearly 2 million Paraguayans turned out at the polls Sunday, with two-thirds of the nations 2.8 million registered voters participating.

Lugo, the 56-year-old ex-bishop, was a popular candidate as he campaigned to support the Paraguay's indigent population.

A poll published early this month in Asuncion-based newspaper La Nacion showed Lugo holding 36.8 percent support, compared to 26.4 percent for Ovelar. Oviedo held 24.3 percent.

There was only one round in the election and a majority was not needed to win.

Lugo, who calls himself an independent, is backed by the Patriotic Alliance for Change -- a coalition of center and center-left parties.

"I believe that the politics of exclusion long practiced in this country doesn't have a future," Lugo has said.

He has also called for the renegotiation of Paraguay's hydroelectricity agreements with Brazil and Argentina, saying Paraguay, a landlocked country plagued by poverty, is losing money.

Ovelar, 50, a former education minister and mother of three children, had played up her opportunity of becoming the country's first female president.

"I want on the 20th of April ... that the news cross the world ... and that the news be ... that Paraguay has succeeded" in doing what Chile and Argentina already have, she has said, referring to the female presidencies there.

Oviedo is a former Army leader who was recently freed after spending several years in prison for threatening a coup in 1996.

His party chose him, a former member of the Colorado Party, as their candidate in January.

Paraguay's polls opened at 7 a.m. ET and closed at 4 p.m. ET Sunday.


Paraguay, a country of nearly 7 million people, is nestled between Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil. It is among the poorest countries in South America. The current president, President Nicanor Duarte Frutos, has been in office since 2003.

The new president will take office in August. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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