Opposition candidates said they expected voting irregularities to ensure a ruling party victory in Monday's elections but were taking part in hopes the vote heralds a peaceful transition to democracy.
Polls indicate that presidential candidate Gen. Andres Rodriguez of the ruling Colorado Party will receive at least 70 percent of the vote. He has run the country since deposing Gen. Alfredo Stroessner in a coup on Feb. 3."We are conscious that we are participating in elections that are marked by flaws, but we're doing it because we want a peaceful transition, not a violent one," the leading opposition candidate, Domingo Laino, said Sunday.
His party is the biggest and best organized after the Colorados and is projected to come in second in the voting.
Laino, a 53-year-old economist and former exile, says his Authentic Radical Liberal Party will withdraw from the political process if the election is not reasonably fair or if the new government tries to impose a "Stroessner system without Stroess-ner."
Stroessner, 76, seized power in a 1954 coup and brooked little opposition during his lengthy rule, arranging to be elected every five years. He was unseated on Feb. 3 and sent into Brazilian exile.
The 65-year-old Rodriguez has been hailed by Paraguayans for toppling Stroessner, but opposition parties - banned under Stroessner - have complained they were not given enough time to prepare for Monday's elections.
Eight parties have fielded candidates in the voting for president, 36 senators and 72 deputies to finish the five-year terms begun by Stroessner and Congress following elections in February 1988.
The parties are responsible for providing their own ballots, and presidential candidate Fernando Vera said his opposition Revolutionary Febrerista Party was not sure its ballots would be available at all at the more than 10,000 polling places nationwide.
The Colorado Party has controlled the government for 42 years, and Rodriguez has broadened his base by improving relations among its factions as well as with foreign governments and the Roman Catholic Church, to which most Paraguayans at least nominally belong.