US & Canada

Los Angeles mayoral election under way amid low turnout

Los Angeles Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti casts his ballot 5 march 2013
Image caption There has been little enthusiasm for the candidates and the issues in the mayoral race

Los Angeles voters are dribbling into polling stations in an election promising the city's most sweeping leadership change in over a decade.

None of the five main candidates for mayor have polled far ahead in the race to replace Antonio Villaraigosa.

Amid turnout as low as 20%, eight council seats and other top city hall posts are also on Tuesday's ballot.

The election comes as America's second-largest city faces budget problems and overburdened public services.

The city lawyer, city controller and eight council seats are also on the ballot, as well as a proposal to raise the city's sales tax to 9.5%, one of the highest rates in the state of California.

Eric Garcetti, 42, and Wendy Greuel, 51 - both veterans of city hall - have been cited as mayoral candidates who might face each other in a run-off vote in May if no candidate wins a majority of the vote in Tuesday's election.

But Democratic Councilwoman Jan Perry, 57, and Republican former prosecutor Kevin James, 47, could inch into a runoff if turnout remains very low, analysts say.

Emanuel Pleitez, a 30-year-old technology executive, is seen as a long shot.

Voting rates in Los Angeles have historically been low.

Mr Villaraigosa was first elected in 2005.

The Los Angeles mayor must grapple with a powerful city council. And unlike in other US cities, the Los Angeles mayor does not have the power to make key city appointments such as police commissioner or school superintendent.