Peru elections: Kuczynski leads Fujimori by narrow margin

Polling firm IPSOS gave 77-year-old Kuczynski 50.5 percent of the vote and Fujimori 49.5 percent, a technical tie.

By: Reuters | Lima | Published: June 6, 2016 8:42 am
Peru, Peru elections, Peru presidential candidates, Peru presidential elections, Kuczynski, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Keiko Fujimori, Alberto Fujimori, Peru News, World News. i Keiko Fujimori, daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori, is trailing behind her rival. AP

Center-right economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski had a slight edge over Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of an imprisoned former president, in two quick counts by polling firms that reviewed ballots in Peru’s presidential run-off election on Sunday.

With 100 percent of sample ballots reviewed, polling firm Ipsos gave the 77-year-old Kuczynski 50.5 percent of the vote and Fujimori 49.5 percent, a technical tie.

Another pollster, GfK, gave Kuczynski 50.8 percent of valid votes to Fujimori’s 49.2 percent.

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“We take this preliminary verdict with optimism, but with modesty,” a grinning Kuczynski, known in Peru as PPK, told cheering supporters from a balcony at his Lima campaign headquarters. He told the crowd to be vigilant until official results were announced.

Alfredo Torres, an analyst with Ipsos, said that with only 1 percentage point separating the candidates, he could not call the election. Peruvians should wait for official results from the electoral authority, he said.

The first official results will be announced around 9 p.m. (0200 GMT on Monday). But with the election so close, Peruvians will likely not know who their next president is until Monday.

Fujimori, 41, a former congresswoman, had a big lead in the first round of voting in April and was ahead in most opinion polls a week ago. But her advantage melted away in the last days of the campaign, evoking memories of her close defeat to Ollanta Humala in the last presidential election in 2011.

Fujimori said in an upbeat speech that rural votes from “deep Peru” still needed to be counted.

“This is a tight vote without a doubt … what we’re seeing is the vitality of democracy in our country, and that fills me with pride,” Fujimori told her orange-clad supporters at her campaign headquarters in Lima.

Seeking to be the South American country’s first female president, she has spent the past five years trying to broaden her appeal beyond loyalists to her father, Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year sentence for graft and human rights abuses.

Fujimori had ousted her father’s staunchest defenders from her party’s congressional ticket and stepped up campaigning in provinces she lost to the left-leaning Humala in 2011. But many voters remained wary after scandals linked her new associates to money laundering and drug trafficking.

“I voted for PPK because I don’t think Keiko Fujimori would be the one governing, her father would be,” said Luz Vite, 34.

Fujimori defends her team and says her party was the victim of a smear campaign ahead of Peru’s fourth democratic election since her father’s authoritarian government collapsed in 2000.

While both candidates are fiscal conservatives who would maintain a free-market model in the resource-rich Andean economy, their styles and approaches differ widely.

The election pits the Fujimori family’s brand of conservative populism against Kuczynski’s elite background and stiff technocratic style, which has curbed his appeal in poor provinces and working-class districts.

Fujimori, who has repeatedly promised to respect democratic institutions, waged a more energetic campaign than her rival, performing regional dances in far-flung villages where she promised to deliver tractors and portraying her rival as out of touch with struggling Peruvians.

Many in rural provinces have fond memories of Fujimori’s father, who built schools and hospitals and is credited with defeating violent Shining Path guerrillas.

She has responded to the top voter concern, crime, with a hard-line stance that includes support for the death penalty and promises to lock up the most dangerous criminals in five prisons she would build high in the Andes.

Kuczynski, a former prime minister and investment banker, has dismissed such proposals as populist. He portrayed himself as honest and experienced enough to make good on promises to revive sluggish economic growth, and has captured the anti-Fujimori vote despite having endorsed her over Humala in 2011.

If he wins, Kuczynski would have to reckon with a solid majority of Fujimori’s party in Congress and a leftist party that has promised not to align with either of them.

“Without a doubt he has the most experience and the best resume. He’s going to govern against corruption and in favor of freedom,” said supporter Juan Samaniego, 28.

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