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Guatemalan ex-first lady Torres polls first in crowded field ahead of Sunday vote


GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Former Guatemalan first lady Sandra Torres leads her competitors in the Central American country’s presidential race, according to a poll published Thursday by newspaper Prensa Libre, the last before Sunday’s election.

Torres, a third-time presidential contender whose late husband President Alvaro Colom governed from 2008 to 2012, drew 21.3% of voter intention in the poll, enough to lead the other 21 candidates but far from the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

Diplomat Edmond Mulet trailed Torres with 13.4% support, followed by Zury Rios, the daughter of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, at 9.1%.

Torres, a well-known but polarizing figure, finished first in the first round of Guatemala’s 2019 election, but lost to current President Alejandro Giammattei in a runoff.

The race to succeed Giammattei, who opposition figures and international organizations accuse of overseeing a crackdown on judges, journalists, prosecutors and activists, has been rife with controversy.

Electoral authorities barred four presidential hopefuls from running, including businessman Carlos Pineda, who was leading polls before he was disqualified for what the Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank, described as “arbitrary” reasons.

In the poll conducted June 5-14 by consultancy ProDatos the share of respondents choosing the “null” vote option more than doubled to 13.5% from 6.3% in May.

If no candidate earns 50% of the vote on Sunday, the top two will compete in a runoff on Aug. 20.

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Brendan O’Boyle; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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