GUATEMALA CITY, JAN. 6 -- Conservative businessman Jorge Serrano took a wide lead over newspaper publisher Jorge Carpio Nicolle in early returns from a presidential runoff election today that inspired little excitement among Guatemalan voters.
With slightly less than 5 percent of the votes counted, Serrano, an evangelical Protestant, had 162,103 votes to 64,050 for Carpio.
After polls closed, election officials at several precincts in the capital said the turnout was half to one-third what it had been during the first round Nov. 11, when about 56 percent of Guatemala's 3.2 million voters cast ballots.
"Everything is calm, all over the country," Alejandro Giamattei, a top official with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, said after the polls had been open several hours. "The only problem is that people aren't voting."
Polls had shown Serrano, a former adviser to one of Guatemala's recent dictators, winning by a large margin. During the first round, Carpio, who has run for the office for seven years using his newspaper as a platform, placed first among 12 candidates with 25.72 percent and Serrano, a dark horse, had 24.14 percent. Serrano was supported by most other candidates from the first round.
The winner of today's balloting would become the first elected civilian in Guatemala's troubled history to take over from another elected civilian.