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Peruvian voters reject Toledo's ruling party

In a stinging setback for President Alejandro Toledo, voters on Sunday chose the country's main opposition party and a host of independents over the governing party in electing 25 new regional government bodies intended to decentralize this Andean country.

The results were widely viewed as a vote of no confidence in Toledo's 16-month-old government, which took office with broad support but has suffered from political disarray and image problems generated by the president's personal behavior.

Political analysts said the big winner was Alan Garcia, a former president and Toledo's most vocal adversary. Polls of voters and early returns showed that his party, the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, won in as many as 10 regions, giving Garcia wide influence that would give him an advantage if, as expected, he made another presidential bid in 2006.

"They have painted the political map," said Mirko Lauer, an influential columnist at La Republica, referring to the alliance. "The APRA has won. It is not unusual, but they are the first party in the country."

In an election in which voting was mandatory, 15-million Peruvians cast their ballots, electing 50 presidents and vice presidents of the new regional governments and 229 members of regional councils. More than 1,800 mayors were also elected. The new governments will receive nearly a quarter of the national budget.

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