(Asuncion) The candidate of the (conservative) Colorado Party in power, Santiago Peña, has a clear lead on Sunday evening halfway through the presidential count in Paraguay over his main center-left rival, Efrain Alegre, according to official figures.

Santiago Peña, a 44-year-old economist, has 44.99% of the vote and his main opponent Efrain Alegre 27.95%, after counting 52% of the votes, according to preliminary figures from the Electoral Court of Justice, nearly three hours after closing of polling stations.

The presidential election takes place in a single round.

Polls in recent weeks had given the two main candidates a rare neck and neck for elections in Paraguay, which Colorado has dominated almost continuously for 76 years, apart from a brief left-wing hiatus under Fernando Lugo between 2008 and 2012.

Santiago Peña, former Minister of Finance (2015-2017) under the presidency of Horacio Cartes, is running for the first time in a national election. In 2018, he was defeated in the Colorado primaries by the current head of state, Mario Abdo Benitez. The outgoing president cannot seek immediate re-election.

Facing him, Efrain Alegre, a 60-year-old lawyer, was running for the third consecutive time in a presidential election, at the head of the Concertacion Nacional, a center-left coalition, after his failures in 2013 in 2018.

The “anti-system” candidate, Paraguayo Cubas, was in 3rd place with 20.43% of the vote halfway through the count.

Sunday’s poll passed without major incident, according to Paraguayan police chief Gilberto Fleitas, who at the end of the day reported a few cases of scuffles, and six people detained across the country.