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Vote Count Continues in Peru

Vote counting is continuing in Peru's hotly contested presidential election, with only a few percentage points separating the top three contenders.

Suspense and anticipation reign in Peru as ballot tabulations continue to trickle in from Sunday's presidential and legislative elections. With more than 75 percent of the vote counted late Monday, ultranationalist Ollanta Humala maintained a narrow lead with some 30 percent of the vote. Center-right former congresswoman Lourdes Flores and former President Alan Garcia are virtually tied for second place at about 25 percent each, with a fraction of a percentage point separating the two. The remainder of the vote is split among more than a dozen others.

Candidates have maintained a low profile since addressing supporters after polling stations closed Sunday. Most have urged their supporters to be patient until final results are known. Asked if he believed he would edge out Lourdes Flores for the number-two position, Alan Garcia declined to comment.

He said, "I do not like to jump to conclusions. The results are in God's hands."

Because no candidate will secure an absolute majority, the top-two vote-getters will square off in a second round of balloting next month.

Meanwhile, the Organization of American States, which dispatched more than 100 observers to Peru, has expressed satisfaction with the country's democratic exercise. The head of the observer mission, Lloyd Axworthy, spoke with reporters earlier Monday.

"We can attest that the general election Sunday was conducted effectively and with integrity," said Lloyd Axworthy. "The election process itself can be validated as providing a fair opportunity for the voters of Peru to have their choices properly represented. The positive aspects of the campaign: the enthusiasm and commitment of the voters. The incidents that took place in the country - and there are always incidents - did not in any way disrupt the election process. I think the people of Peru should feel very good about this election."

Axworthy did note, however, that a Peruvian law placing a moratorium on the domestic reporting of poll numbers in the days leading up to an election results in an inequality. Those with access to the Internet and international news sources are able to learn about poll numbers, while the rest of the country cannot.