Nearly complete official returns on Wednesday showed leftist Evo Morales winning Bolivia's presidency — holding 54.2 percent of the vote with more than 92 percent of polling places tallied.

He needs just more than 50 percent from Sunday's election to win outright and avoid the formality of congress' deciding between him and the candidate who finished a distant second, Jorge Quiroga.

Bolivian newspapers have begun to refer to Morales as president-elect, and the outgoing administration said it is preparing to hand over power.

The still-uncounted votes are largely from remote areas, where Morales is popular. He would need only about 39 percent of the remaining uncounted vote to top 50 percent.

Morales would be the first president since Bolivia returned to democratic rule in 1982 to be directly elected at the ballot box, with no need for congress to choose.

Quiroga, a former president, was in second place with 30 percent. He has already conceded defeat.