Archive for Monday, April 28, 2003

Ruling party retains Paraguay’s presidency

April 28, 2003


— Colorado Party veteran Nicanor Duarte easily defeated two challengers in Paraguay's presidential election on Sunday, prolonging the party's half-century grip on power despite the worst economic crisis in decades.

With 82 percent of the ballots counted from 8,400 polling stations nationwide, Paraguay's Electoral Court said Duarte, a 49-year-old lawyer had 38 percent of the vote -- a runaway lead that would keep the Colorado Party's record intact as the longest-governing party still in power in the Americas.

Second place went to opposition leader Julio Cesar Franco of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party with 23 percent. Pedro Falud, a wealthy banker and independent of the Beloved Fatherland movement, placed third with 22 percent, the Electoral Court said.

In a clear signal that Duarte's victory was considered final, election officials said no further official results would be issued Sunday. Complete results would be provided today.

"I'm not going to let you down," Duarte said in declaring victory. "I want to be the president who restores the country to dignity and earns the respect of the national and the international community."

Franco and Falud met with their supporters and quietly conceded the race.

Duarte's party dominated the political life of this South American nation of 5.5 million people since 1947, governing both in times of dictatorship and civilian rule.

While his party has long been accused of failing to help the country's poor, he vowed to "work hard so we will no longer be a rich country with poor people."

More than one of three Paraguayans lives in poverty. The government puts unemployment at 18 percent, but experts say it's 35 percent. The government, virtually broke, has scrambled to pay civil servant salaries. Only Bolivia is poorer in South America

There was little difference among the candidates' platforms on how they would deal with the crushing economic disarray.

Duarte succeeds Luis Gonzalez Macchi for a five-year term beginning Aug. 15.

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