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Peru in right votes after Fujimori lead slips

by June 5, 2016 General
AFP / Martin Bernetti Peruvian presidential candidate for “Fuerza Popular” (Popular Strength) party, Keiko Fujimori, holds a final campaign rally in Lima on June 2, 2016

Peruvians voted Sunday in a tight presidential election between the daughter of an ex-president jailed for massacres and a former Wall Street banker.

Last-minute polls showed conservative Keiko Fujimori, 41, tied with her center-right rival Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, 77.

The election has forced voters to confront the South American nation’s dark past. A 1980-2000 civil war involving leftist insurgents killed an estimated 70,000 people.

Many mistrust Keiko Fujimori because her father Alberto is in jail for corruption and the slaughter of alleged terrorists in the 1990s.

AFP / Gustavo IZUS, Nicolas RAMALLO Keiko Fujimori

“We want no more dictatorships. There was a lot of repression and a lot of people died and disappeared,” said Enrique Castillo, a 61-year-old queuing to vote in Lima.

Others hope Keiko Fujimori will be tough like her father in fighting a wave of violent crime in Peru, a major cocaine-producing country.

“Her father did good things too against crime,” said administrative worker Silvia Cuadros, 45, waiting in line to vote for Fujimori.

“Our parents may make mistakes but that does not mean their children will do the same.”

A beaming Fujimori waved from an open-top car and hugged supporters before voting at a school in central Lima.

Armed police escorted her through a crowd of television cameras and fans seeking selfies.

– Unite Peru –

Fujimori and Kuczynski spoke to television crews at their traditional election-morning breakfasts.

AFP / Ernesto Benavides Peru´s presidential candidate for the “Peruanos por el Kambio” party, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, waves after casting his vote at a polling station in Lima on June 5, 2016

“Go out and vote, do it early and let us do it united, thinking of our country,” Fujimori said as she cooked breakfast for her two small daughters and American husband Mark Villanella.

“Today is a day of celebration and the winner should be Peru.”

Kuczynski called for a “government of unity.”

“Vote happily and think of democracy and dialogue. That is the only thing that will save us from corruption, drug-trafficking and turbulence,” he said.

Both candidates are right-leaning, US-educated politicians who have vowed to fight crime and create jobs in the nation of 31 million people.

Kuczynski, the son of a German doctor who treated lepers in the Peruvian Amazon, also studied in Britain in the 1950s.

AFP / Martin Bernetti Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori has vowed to build prisons and put more police and even troops on the street to keep order

Fujimori is the granddaughter of Japanese immigrants. She is seen as more populist and socially conservative.

“She is the only one who has signed a commitment to oppose gay marriages. And with her there will be less crime,” Cuadros told AFP.

Former economy minister Kuczynski has a long career in business and finance.

“He has a lot of experience. Keiko has never worked,” said Castillo, who runs a business exporting clothes.

“We want security and stability so that foreign investment will come.”

– Tied in polls –

Two opinion polls on Saturday showed Fujimori had lost her earlier lead. The candidates were locked in a technical tie.

AFP/File / Martin Bernetti Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, presidential candidate of the “Peruanos por el Kambio” (Peruvians for Change) party, has vowed to stamp out corruption and violence, promising to stop Peru becoming a “narco-state”

A survey by Ipsos gave Kuczynski 50.4 percent of the vote to 49.6 percent for Fujimori. Pollster GfK gave him 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent for Fujimori.

“The gap could widen… if Kuczynski keeps rising,” said Alfredo Torres, president of Ipsos Peru.

“Or it could reverse if Popular Force activists manage to boost votes in their favor in the interior of the country.”

The campaigns have been stained by allegations of corruption and irregularities.

Those may have turned the tide in the polls against Fujimori in favor of Kuczynski, pollsters said.

Kuczynski has less support among poorer voters but “anti-fujimoristas” are flocking to him, said Luis Benavente, director of consultancy Vox Populi.

Both runoff candidates are seen as pro-market in their plans to further Peru’s economic growth.

The country is a big exporter of copper, gold and other minerals.

Its strong growth has declined under outgoing President Ollanta Humala.

Voting went ahead calmly. No major incidents were reported.

Polling stations were scheduled to close at 2100 GMT. First official results were expected around 0200 GMT on Monday.