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Runoff looms as ruling party leads Costa Rica presidential election

Costa Rica's conservative ruling party candidate Johnny Araya has taken the lead in the country's presidential vote, initial results say. But with no candidate meeting the 40 percent threshold, a runoff looks likely.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal said Sunday that with around a quarter of the votes counted Araya, of the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) led with 33.2 percent compared to the 25.4 percent of his centrist rival Luis Guillermo Solis.

Leftist candidate Jose Maria Villata of the Broad Front (FA) sits in third place with 17.7 percent of the vote.

Araya, the former mayor of the capital San Jose, had campaigned on reducing poverty and attempted to distance himself from President Laura Chinchilla's scandal-hit government. He called his candidacy "the safest, most responsible" option for the Central American country's 4.5 million people.

A win for Araya, 56, would keep the PLN in power for a third consecutive term.

Solis has promised to reform infrastructure, revamp healthcare and stamp out corruption.

Vellalta has also focused on fighting corruption during his campaign as an anti-Chinchilla candidate, as well as working for social equality.

Some 3.1 million people were eligible to vote in Costa Rica's election, which not only selected a new president for a four-year term, but also new members of congress.

dr/av (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)

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