- Title: PARAGUAY: Presidential campaigning wraps up
- Date: 18th April 2008
- Summary: VARIOUS OF SUPPORTERS LISTENING
- Embargoed: 3rd May 2008 13:00
- Location: Paraguay
- Country: Paraguay
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAEP82EASSYBLV8RX9SF0JYSUKB
- Story Text: A former Roman Catholic bishop skipped the country's last presidential debate on Thursday (April 17) and asked supporters at his final campaign rally to help him end more than 60 years of one-party rule in Paraguay in Sunday's (April 20) presidential election.
The most recent polls show a tight race with former bishop and Patriotic Alliance Party candidate Fernando Lugo who left the priesthood to seek the presidency as the head of a center-left coalition.
If Lugo wins, he would likely align himself with center-left presidents in Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
Most polls show him with a slim advantage over the ruling Colorado Party candidate, Blanca Ovelar, and retired army general Lino Oviedo.
Oviedo said Lugo should have attended the debate and openly questioned whether he had a plan.
"It's the last debate and what did he have to say here? His state policies, his government program, how will he deal with corruption, how will he deal with crime, how will he generate new jobs, could it be he doesn't have one (a plan)? Because today we needed to give an obligatory accounting to the people," he told the audience.
Lugo dropped out of this week's final presidential debates, saying his opponents were waging a "dirty war" against him. Oviedo renewed accusations against Lugo on Thursday for allegedly consorting with leftists who killed a former president's daughter three years ago.
"The fatherland's thieves, those who betrayed the national inheritance, those who hijacked hope, are still among usâ€¦ and the good news is they have three days left. They have 3 days left," Lugo told tens of thousands of supporters at his closing campaign rally.
The vote will be a referendum on the world's longest-ruling party still in power, the centre-right Colorado Party that has dominated Paraguayan politics since 1947.
Ovelar, the first woman to run for president of Paraguay, describes herself as an opposition figure within the Colorado Party who can modernise and clean up the government.
The country of 5.6 million people, is also known for pervasive corruption and a large contraband business in illegal imports and exports of electronics, cigarettes, liquor and even weapons.
Most polls show Oviedo in third place ahead of Sunday's contest. He jumped into the race last year after the Supreme Court overturned his 10-year prison sentence for plotting a coup in the mid-1990s.
Popular with poor Paraguayans seeking a new strongman leader, Oviedo has pledged to respect the result at the ballot box and serve as a "true commander-in-chief."
The poor, landlocked South American country holds just one round of balloting. The candidate who gets the most votes wins, and mudslinging marks the campaign until the very end.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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