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Tobacco magnate leads Paraguay vote

Supporters in Paraguay celebrated the apparent lead of presidential candidate Horacio Cartes.

Norberto Duarte/Getty Images

Supporters in Paraguay celebrated the apparent lead of presidential candidate Horacio Cartes.

ASUNCION, Paraguay — Paraguayans voted Sunday in elections that they hope will end the country’s isolation from regional groups that challenged last year’s impeachment of President Fernando Lugo as a threat to their democracies.

Most preelection polls gave the lead to the Colorado Party’s Horacio Cartes, a tobacco magnate making his first run for public office. Cartes is well known in Paraguay as president of Libertad, the club that won last year’s national soccer championship.

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The initial count was to be announced by Paraguay’s Supreme Electoral Court on Sunday, but Cartes’s leading challenger, attorney Efrain Alegre of the Radical Liberals, said he might not accept the results until they are certified in May.

‘‘The system of rapid transmission of results of the electoral court is the same as the computations that we do; they’re extra-official instruments for anticipating results,’’ Alegre said.

Nobel Peace Prize recipient Oscar Arias was leading an observer mission from the Organization of American States, and said Sunday that he had complete confidence in the court because it has spent months observing and supporting the process.

International election observer Martin Sequeira said voting was proceeding calmly and there was a high turnout.

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