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FUJIMORI TAKES LEAD IN PERU VOTE

Peruvians voted in their first peaceful election in 15 years Sunday, and exit polls showed President Alberto Fujimori defeating a former U.N. secretary-general to win a second five-year term.

Fujimori denied accusations by his opponents, including former U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, that he was involved in a vote fraud scheme uncovered days before the election.Official results weren't expected for five days. But an exit poll by Apoyo, Peru's leading polling firm, said Fujimori received 60 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff with Perez de Cuellar, who got 26 percent.

Apoyo said its projection was based on interviews conducted in every voting district nationwide but didn't say how many voters it interviewed. It said the margin of error was 3 percentage points.

CPI, another respected polling firm, said Fujimori won 62 percent of the vote while Perez de Cuellar received 20 percent. CPI also said it surveyed every voting district.

Both firms have been extremely accurate at predicting the outcome of previous elections. Election officials were expected to release preliminary official results late Sunday.

All elections since 1980 had been marred by violence from the Shining Path, the Maoist guerrillas who have been all but defeated since the capture in 1992 of their leader, Abimael Guzman.

On Sunday, soldiers guarded voting stations with rifles but their numbers were smaller than in past years, and they did not appear to be needed.

In the remote Andean village of Chuschi, where rebels launched their rebellion in May 1980 by burning ballot boxes, the change was apparent.

"Voting is going normally. People have lost their fear," village official Leon Quispe told Radioprogramas.

But the fairness of the election was called into question after police found a group of people filling out tally sheets that would have benefited Fujimori in his campaign for re-election to a five-year term.