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Exit polls: Leftist leads in Peru

None expected to win majority; runoff anticipated

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LIMA, Peru (CNN) -- Leftist candidate Ollanta Humala led balloting in Peru's presidential election Sunday, but a runoff with one of two other candidates appeared likely, exit polls indicated.

Humala, a 41-year-old former army officer, had 29.6 percent of the vote in a field of 20 candidates late Sunday, according to exit polls.

Alan Garcia, 55, a socialist who led Peru from 1985 to 1990, had 24.5 percent of the vote, while conservative Lourdes Flores, 46, was a close third at 24.2 percent.

Initial results are expected Sunday night.

Humala is the latest in a line of self-styled champions of the poor who have come to power recently in South America. He opposes trade globalization and called for a review of Peru's contracts with overseas companies, particularly the multinational mining companies digging for Peru's natural resources.

He has campaigned on promises to legalize coca leaves, the raw material used to make cocaine, and to forge close ties with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. Like Chavez, Humala is a former army colonel who led a failed military coup in 2000.

And like President Evo Morales in neighboring Bolivia, Humala says he would put the interests of Peru's mostly poor Andean indians first.

Flores is a commercial attorney and former congresswoman vying to become the first woman president in the nation's history. In a recent interview with CNN, she said Humala's message was dangerous.

"Peru can't go down into the abyss with Humala," said Flores, who favors close ties with the United States.

Under current President Alejandro Toledo, another leftist, Peru's economy showed healthy growth and exports boomed. But the benefits never trickled down to the poor: Government statistics show that about two-thirds of the 28 million Peruvians still live in poverty.

Polls for the nation's 16.5 million voters were open from 8 a.m. (1 p.m. GMT) to 4 p.m. (9 p.m. GMT). Another 400,000 Peruvians voted from outside the country.

The president will serve a five-year term.

CNN's Karl Penhaul and Journalist Maria Elena Bellaunde contributed to this report.

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