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Peru's regional voting seems to doom Toledo

Voters in Peru appeared Sunday to repudiate President Alejandro Toledo in first-ever regional elections intended to shift power from the capital to the provinces.

Exit polls showed that Toledo's party failed to capture any of 19 regional presidencies tracked by the Apoyo polling firm in a vote seen as a referendum on Toledo, whose approval rating has lately been at 20 percent.

Voters were voting for 25 new regional governments in a fulfillment of the president's pledge to give more power to set their own policies.

There was no polling data available on the six other presidencies.

Preliminary vote tallies were expected later Sunday and final results later this week.

The populist Aprista party, led by former President Alan Garcia, won at least 10 of the regional presidencies, according to Apoyo.

Garcia plans another presidential bid in 2006, making it unlikely that the Aprista party would cooperate with the Toledo government.

Critics see the plan to decentralize the government as a recipe for another Argentina, where independent provinces generated huge debts that contributed to the country's financial collapse.

Peru long has been a largely one-city nation based in Lima, which has swollen to hold one-third of Peru's 25-million people and more than half of its economic output.