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No Runaway Winner in Peru's Presidential Contest

Partial election results in Peru are showing a tight three-way presidential contest that all but assures a second round of balloting to determine a final winner. Ultra-nationalist Ollanta Humala appears to be the top vote-getter, but the second-place finisher is too close to call.

Euphoric backers of Ollanta Humala threw an informal party in Peru's capital, as partial election results placed their candidate on top with nearly 30 percent of the vote. Coming in a close second were center-right attorney Lourdes Flores and former President Alan Garcia, with only a fraction of a percentage point separating the two.

If anything, Humala's modest lead is expected to grow as more results are reported, given that his strongest support lies in remote rural regions that are often slow to provide polling numbers.

An ex-military officer who has pledged to exert greater control over transnational corporations, Humala struck a conciliatory tone as he addressed supporters.

"I want to ask everyone that we receive these results with great humility," he said. "The Peruvian people have expressed their desire for change: putting the economy at the service of the people."

So close are the election results that officials are warning it could be days before it is known with absolute certainty which candidates will take part in a second round of balloting, next month.

Late Sunday, Alan Garcia expressed optimism that he would be one of the two finalists, and urged his supporters to act in with prudence. Garcia's first term, in the late 1980's, was marked by hyper-inflation and corruption. But he has told voters he learned from his mistakes and is ready to lead once again.

Lourdes Flores, who wants to promote economic expansion by focusing on small businesses, acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding election results.

She says all she knows for certain is that there will be a second ballot, Still, she says she is confident and asks her supporters to remain calm.

Flores aims to become Peru's first female president and her candidacy has appears to have captured the imagination of a significant number of women in this socially-conservative, often male-dominated nation.

One young female supporter could not contain her disappointment that Flores is not projected to finish first.

"Why, why is this happening, if the women are supporting her? Why are people so ignorant, so stupid, that they do not see reality -- that Lourdes is the only option, the only solution?" she asks.

The three top vote-getters have all promised to tackle Peru's high poverty rates, but have very different prescriptions for doing so. Lima law professor and political analyst Walter Alban sees a call for change in the country, but says this change is not well defined.

Most polling stations reported calm Sunday, with one notable exception: scores of demonstrators surrounded a Lima university building where Ollanta Humala cast his ballot, hurling insults and debris. Riot police were eventually called in to escort the candidate from the locale.