A former Education Minister was leading a close race for the presidential nomination of Paraguay's ruling Colorado Party, opening the chance for a third sitting woman president in South America.
With 92 percent of votes counted, Blanca Ovelar led a four-way race with 45.3 percent of ballots, said the director of the party electoral tribunal, Oscar Latorre, at a news conference early Monday morning. Former Vice President Luis Castiglioni earned 44.2 percent of votes counted. Latorre said the partial results were not conclusive and the final outcome may not be available until Wednesday. Ovelar and Castiglioni both expressed optimism that they would prevail. Paraguay's Colorado party has ruled the country uninterrupted since 1947. Two women are now sitting presidents in nearby Argentina and Chile, and Ovelar ? a close ally of President Nicanor Duarte ? said that she wants to become the region's third in a 2008 vote. The nominee is expected to face a left-leaning former bishop, Fernando Lugo, and a center-right former army general, Lino Cesar Oviedo, in general elections next April. Both have called for making the election a referendum on Paraguay's one-party rule. The Colorado Party has been besieged by voter discontent as chronic economic malaise, corruption and poverty drive thousands of Paraguayans abroad in search of work. Duarte leaves office in August after a four-year term.