El Salvador ex-rebel leads vote, well placed for run-off

Salvador Sanchez Ceren, presidential candidate for the Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN) and his wife Margarita Villalta give victory signs at a polling station during the presidential elections, in SBy Nelson Renteria and Michael O’Boyle SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – A former left-wing guerrilla commander had a strong lead in El Salvador’s presidential election on Sunday and heads into a run-off vote well positioned to defeat a conservative rival who wants to fight powerful street gangs with the army. Salvador Sanchez Ceren, who became a top leader of the now-ruling leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) during El Salvador’s civil war, had 49 percent support with votes in from more than 94 percent of polling booths. His right-wing opponent, former San Salvador Mayor Norman Quijano, had 38.9 percent of the vote. Sanchez Ceren had needed 50 percent to avoid a run-off on March 9 but with a 10-point lead over Quijano he was optimistic.