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Peru’s presidential election hung in the balance on Tuesday, as the economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski contined to hold a narrow lead over Keiko Fujimori, daughter of a jailed former president.
With 96.13 per cent of ballots counted, Mr Kuczynski was marginally ahead with 50.14 per cent, while Ms Fujimori was on 49.85 per cent. In an election where 17m Peruvians cast ballots, Mr Kuczynski’s lead was less than 50,000 votes.
But given the remoteness of some parts of Peru, as well as votes coming from overseas, the final result could be delayed until later this week.
Ms Fujimori has lost a lead over the past week that had been as high as 8 percentage points after Mr Kuczynski ran a campaign focused on her controversial father Alberto Fujimori. The former autocratic president is now serving time in prison for crimes against humanity.
Battle lines in the election were drawn over those favouring and those fearing the return to office of a Fujimori. Mr Kuczynski, a former Wall Street banker and World Bank economist, won support from leftwingers seeking to prevent Ms Fujimori from winning.
“I want to call on Peruvians, of any political conviction, to defend freedom and fend off the return to dictatorship, corruption and lies,” the man known as PPK said ahead of the vote. Augusto Alvarez Rodrich, a Peruvian political commentator, explained Mr Kuczynski’s success as “strong anti-Fujimorismo”.
In 1994 Ms Fujimori became first lady to her father, two years after he sent soldiers to shut down congress in Peru’s so-called “auto-coup”. Six years later he resigned by fax from Japan. He is serving a 25-year sentence for a range of offences including abuse of power, corruption and human rights violations.
Fujimori talked about change, but she was with the same people from her father’s government
But seeking to shore up her democratic credentials, Ms Fujimori said before the poll that “never in my political career have I given signs of authoritarianism.”
Ms Fujimori opened up a lead in the race to replace the leftwing President Ollanta Humala after winning almost 40 per cent of the votes in the first round in April. The 41-year-old US-trained former lawmaker, who would be Peru’s first female president, ran a campaign promising to be tough on crime.
Julia Quispe, a 73-year-old in Villa El Salvador, in the poor outskirts of Lima, said she voted for Ms Fujimori. “Her father’s sins are not hers. She is her own person, someone who has good intentions, good ideas — and she is a woman.”
But Martín Tapia, who in a hilltop shantytown outside the capital cast his vote for Mr Kuczynski, said he did not trust Ms Fujimori. “She talked about change, but she was with the same people from her father’s government,” he said.
Her father’s sins are not hers. She is her own person, someone who has good intentions, good ideas — and she is a woman
Mr Kuczynski, 77, who has degrees from Oxford and Princeton universities, has previously served as finance minister, mining minister and prime minister. Against a backdrop of falling mineral prices, he has vowed to trim taxes, cut red tape to streamline investments and entice mining investors to lift economic growth to 5 per cent from last year’s 3.3 per cent.
Even if Ms Fujimori loses it will not end her influence. Her Popular Force party controls just under 60 per cent of the seats in congress compared with 15 per cent for Mr Kuczynski’s Peruvians for Change party.
Mr Humala, who is constitutionally barred from seeking immediate re-election, is scheduled to hand over the presidency next month.