In the South American nation of Ecuador, some eight million voters are electing a president from among 11 candidates, in what could be a close race.

A pre-election poll published Saturday shows a lead by lawmaker Leon Roldos, who is the only Socialist party member in Congress. He had 19 percent of voter support in a survey whose margin of error was less than three percent.

The same poll shows Colonel Lucio Gutierrez, and banana magnate Alvaro Noboa tied at just less than 19 percent voter support. Mr. Noboa lost a run-off against former president Jamil Mahuad in 1998 and in early 2000 Col. Gutierrez helped remove Mr. Mahuad from office in a coup.

Former president Rodrigo Borja had 17 percent in the survey.

Election polls opened early Sunday and the morning's voting occurred without major incident. Voting by candidate Oswaldo Hurtado was televised by local media here in Quito.

Mr. Oswaldo is also a former president of this republic whose leadership has been democratically elected since 1979. However, the last two democratically-elected presidents have served less than half their terms before being removed from office during popular protests that sometimes turned violent.

Ecuador has had five presidents in the past decade.

Since campaigning officially began, voter polls have shown no clear leader among the many candidates. If no candidate receives 50 percent of votes, or 40 percent with a 10-point lead, the run-off is set for November 24th between the top two votegetters.

Ecuador's next president inherits a country still recovering from an economic contraction of seven percent in 1999. The country is $14 billion in debt, but its year 2001 economic growth of more than 5.5 percent made it the fastest growing economy in Latin America.