BUENES AIRES (UPI) -- Juan D. Peron took an apparently unbeatable lead Sunday in Argentina's four-man presidential election. His political coalition claimed a clear victory that heralded a triumphal return to power for Peron after 18 years.
At 8:55 p.m., less than three hours after the polls closed, the Justicialist Liberation Front (Frejuli) proclaimed Peron the winner without a runoff as he ran consistently above 50 percent of the votes counted.
Official returns from 20 percent of polling places gave Peron and his Justicialist Liberation Front 1,348,693 votes or 54.7 percent, Richard Balbin of the Radical Civic Union 687,670 or 27.9 percent, Francisco Manrique of a center-right coalition 378,565 or 15.4 percent and Juan Carlos Coral of the Socialist Workers party 47,919 or 1.94 percent.
A fraction of one percent were void ballots.
Carloads of Peronist supporters began riding through the streets of Buenos Aires Sunday night celebrating the apparent victory. A crowd of well-wishers gathered outside the official presidential residence in the Buenos Aires suburb of Olivos, where Peron had gone from his private residence to await the results.
Two hours after the polls closed, Buenos Aires television Channel 13 proclaimed Peron the winner with a simple majority and no need for a runoff election, on the basis of a projection showing him winning 56 to 60 percent of the vote. The projection gave Balbin 20 to 23 percent, and Manrique 12 to 15 percent. No projected figure was given for Coral.
Voting was orderly on a sunny spring day in the Southern Hemisphere. The turnout appeared somewhat lighter than the 85.2 percent who voted in the last election.
More than 170,000 members of the armed forces and police were mobilized to assure the orderly voting of 14 million Argentines, making their second trip to the presidential polls this year.
Peron voted early Sunday morning to the surprise of journalists keeping watch on his suburban home. Peron had told newsmen earlier in the week he was still on the voting list at the Madrid Embassy. However, his name was placed on the voter rolls in time for the election, in the same district where he was registered before his overthrow.
Peron's third wife Isabel, 40, his vice presidential running mate, also voted.
Last March 11, in elections called by the military regime to return Argentina to civilian rule, Peron's stand-in, Hector Campora, was swept into the presidency with 49.5 percent of the vote in a nine-man race.
Campora resigned July 13, three weeks after Peron's triumphant return, ending 18 years of exile spent in Paraguay, Panama, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic before settling in a Spanish villa. But despite his years of exile, his power among the working classes remained a force in Argentine politics.
Campora's resignation permitted new elections to be called without the residency clause, which had kept Peron from qualifying in the March elections.
The other candidates included Ricardo Balbin, of the Radical Civic Union; Francisco Manrique, of the rightist Federal Alliance; and Juan Carlos Coral, of the Socialist Workers Party.