Thursday 8 December 2016

Fujimori gains ground in tight Peruvian presidential vote

Published 07/06/2016 | 13:11

Presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori greets supporters in Lima, Peru (AP)
Presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori greets supporters in Lima, Peru (AP)

The nail-biter race for Peru's presidency has tightened as the daughter of imprisoned ex-president Alberto Fujimori gained ground on her rival thanks to votes trickling in from remote rural areas and embassies abroad.

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Former World Bank economist Pedro Pablo Kuczysnki's razor-thin lead over Keiko Fujimori shrank to fewer than 51,000 votes early on Tuesday morning. With tallies from nearly 97% of polling stations processed, Mr Kuczynski had 50.2% of the votes compared with Ms Fujimori's 49.8%

While two quick counts showed Mr Kuczynski prevailing in a tight contest, still to be counted are the ballots of 885,000 Peruvians eligible to vote abroad, the majority living in the United States. They turned out massively for Ms Fujimori in the 2011 election.

About 1.4% of the handwritten tallies collected at polling stations were being disputed and were sent to a special electoral board for review.

Both candidates remained silent while awaiting final results even as their aides began to jockey for positions in an eventual alliance in congress, where Ms Fujimori's Popular Force won a solid majority of 73 of 130 seats. Mr Kuczynski's fledgling movement will have just 18, fewer than the country's main leftist alliance.

While Mr Kuczynski's campaign said it is ready to work with all political groups, supporters of Ms Fujimori expressed doubt that the wounds from the final stretch of the campaign, in which Mr Kuczynski accused Keiko Fujimori of being the harbinger of a "narco-state", could be easily healed.

"They called us drug traffickers, thieves," said Lourdes Alcorta, a congresswoman. "It's going to be difficult for us to hug them."

If Mr Kuczynski holds on to his lead, it would be a stunning turnaround. Ms Fujimori topped a field of 10 candidates in the first round of voting in April and consistently led Mr Kuczynski in polls taken before Sunday's run-off.

Mr Kuczynski, 77, managed to climb back by abandoning his above-the-fray, grandfatherly appeal and attacking his younger rival as a risk to Peru's young democracy.

Playing on memories of Alberto Fujimori's well-known ties to corruption, organised crime and death squads, for which he's serving a 25-year prison sentence, he seized on string of scandals that hobbled Ms Fujimori in the final stretch.

The most notable was a report that one of her big fundraisers and the secretary general of her party was the target of a US Drug Enforcement Administration investigation. Peru is the world's largest producer of cocaine.

PPK, as Mr Kuczynski is almost universally known in Peru, also benefited from a last-minute endorsement by the third-place finisher in the first round of voting, leftist congresswoman Veronika Mendoza, the protagonist of a massive anti-Fujimori demonstration last week the likes of which Peru has not seen since the turbulent end of her father's rule 16 years ago.

Press Association

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