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story.lead_photo.caption Alejandro Giammattei, presidential candidate with the Vamos party, shows shows his ink stained finger, which means he voted in the presidential election, as he arrives to his campaign headquarters to await results, at a hotel in Guatemala City, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. Guatemalans voted Sunday in a presidential runoff pitting former first lady Sandra Torres against conservative Alejandro Giammattei in a nation beset by poverty and unemployment, and dealing with migration issues. (AP Photo/Oliver de Ros)

GUATEMALA CITY -- Conservative Alejandro Giammattei headed for a victory in Sunday's presidential runoff election, garnering favor with voters for his get-tough approach on crime and socially conservative values.

With about 95% of polling places reporting, the country's Supreme Electoral Council said late Sunday that Giammattei had about 59% of votes, compared with about 41% for former first lady Sandra Torres.

Turnout appeared to have been extremely low, suggesting disillusionment with the political status quo.

Running for the conservative Vamos party, Giammattei was making his fourth bid for the presidency. The 63-year-old doctor, who uses crutches because he has multiple sclerosis, vocally opposes gay marriage and abortion and endorses family values and the death penalty.

Torres was married to -- and later divorced -- former President Álvaro Colom (2008-2012), but has a record of her own as a businesswoman, having run a textile and apparel company.

Her campaign platform had focused on improving education, health care and the economy. She also proposed an anti-corruption program, but her Unity for Hope party has come under fire because some of its mayoral candidates have been accused of receiving contributions from drug traffickers for their campaigns.

Giammattei claimed victory, and Oscar Argueta, the general secretary of Torres' party, conceded defeat.

About 8 million Guatemalans are registered voters, but turnout might have fallen to as low as 42%.

The country's general elections were held June 16, but no presidential candidate won the necessary votes to assume the post after the first round.

The new president is to take office Jan. 14 and will face the task of attempting to stem the large flow of migrants headed toward the United States. At least 1% of Guatemala's population of some 16 million has left the country this year.

A Section on 08/12/2019

Print Headline: Guatemala conservative near victory in presidential vote

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