The former Catholic bishop, Fernando Lugo, has been elected president in Paraguay, ending 61 years of rule by the conservative Colorado Party. Lugo's Patriotic Alliance for Change coalition won 41% of the vote, giving him a 10% lead over the ruling party candidate. Blanca Ovelar who won 31%.
Another candidate, retired army chief Lino Oviedo, trailed far behind in third place with 22% of the vote. A jubilant crowd of more than 80,000 people gathered in the centre of the capital Asuncion yesterday in the Pantheon of Heroes area, to hear Lugos speak.
He told them: "It is a triumph for the Paraguayan population that believed in change and today made it become a reality. Today we marked the nation's history. Starting immediately, things will change for the best. You are the heroes of this result Our nation today showed great civic-mindedness to obtain the change we wanted since the start of this election campaign". Lugo said the election showed that 'the little people can also win'. Fernando Lugo, 57, retired early from his post as bishop three years ago, saying he felt powerless to help the poor in Paraguay.
He led a centre-left coalition at the presidential election, vowing to end corruption and ease inequalities. Outgoing President Nicanor Duarte could not constitutionally seek re-election after serving a five-year term. 'Today we suffered an electoral defeat,' Mr Duarte told his Colorado Party, but added: 'I want to stress that for the first time in Paraguay's political history, there will be a party-to-party transition without bloodshed, coup d'etat, without violence.'
Mr Lugo will be sworn in as president on 15 August. For an in-depth analysis of the elections in Paraguay see: The Bishop who would be President published by Thinking Faith at: www.thinkingfaith.org/articles/20080204_1.htm