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Results in Guatemala Presidential Elections Still Incomplete

The presidential election held in Guatemala, Sunday, resulted in no clear winner, requiring the two top vote winners to face off in a runoff election in November. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Guatemala City, the voting process was marked by massive turnout and only a few isolated incidents of violence.

Voters streamed to the polls all over this country, Sunday, in spite of heavy afternoon rains in some areas. Election officials say close to 60 percent of registered voters took part in the process.

Thousands of police and soldiers were on hand, near voting centers, to prevent violence. There were only a few isolated incidents. In one town, an angry mob attacked a voting center and burned some of the ballots. But the incident had to do with a local dispute and had no major impact, on a national level.

No presidential candidate won 50 percent of the total vote, based on an analysis of preliminary results. The two top candidates are Alvaro Colom, head of the National Unity of Hope, and Otto Perez Molina, who leads the Patriotic Party.

Recent polls have indicated the contest between these two candidates could be very close. Colom is a 56-year-old businessman who favors social reforms, including an overhaul of the security forces and judiciary. Perez, who is 57 years old, is a former army general who has promised to fight drug traffickers and other criminals with a strong hand.

Edgar Hernandez, who voted Sunday in his home town, Antigua, says he is open minded, wanting a president who will fight crime and violence.

He says he hopes the newly elected officials will establish law and order. Guatemala has one of the highest murder rates in the world and one of the highest overall crime rates in Latin America.

Another voter, Aura Maria, echoed that sentiment, saying peace and tranquility are important for her and her children.

She says whoever ends up being elected president needs to do something about crime and the poverty that afflicts a large part of the population.

Both of the candidates going into the second round, Alvaro Colom and Otto Perez Molina, have addressed the crime issue and each has a distinct approach. While Perez speaks of strengthening the police forces and bringing the army into the war against drug traffickers, Colom cautions against doing anything that would take the country back to its past, when security forces were accused of widespread human rights abuses.