Former dictator Efrain Rios Montt is poised to lose in his bid to become the next president of Guatemala.

The controversial candidate trailed a distant third in Guatemala's presidential elections, winning only 11 per cent of the vote, according to partial results announced early Monday.

With nearly a quarter of the votes counted, former Guatemala City Mayor Oscar Berger had 48 per cent of the votes, compared to centre-left candidate Alvaro Colom's 28 per cent.

In order to win the presidency, one candidate must win 50 per cent of the vote. If that fails, the two top voter-getters square off for a second election round on Dec. 28.

Montt ruled Guatemala for a brief period during the early 1980s when 70,000 people were massacred.

Opponents to Montt's candidacy want him tried for crimes against humanity and genocide, but he is immune from prosecution because he currently sits as a senator and president of Congress, a term that ends in January. A presidential win would have extended Montt's immunity.

Montt, whose government was supported by former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, does not have the support of the Bush administration, which has warned that relations with Guatemala would suffer if Montt were elected.

This is the country's second presidential election since the 1996 peace accords were signed to end 36 years of civil war.

Voters waited in long queues to cast their ballots on Sunday in an election closely watched by international observers.

Nearly five million Guatemalans were registered to vote for president, lawmakers and local officials.

More than 2,000 election observers were stationed throughout the country to ensure a fair and orderly election.

Two women were reported trampled to death as a crowd fought to enter a polling station in the northern city of Chajul.