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Conservative Kuczynski Takes Slim Lead Over Fujimori in Peru's Presidential Poll

With half the votes counted, ex-World Bank economist Pedro Pablo Kucynski holds a one point lead over the daughter of the imprisoned 1990s strongman Alberto Fujimori, after a tense campaign viewed as a battle for the soul of Peru's fragile democracy.
Photo by Martin Mejia/AP

Early results from Peru's presidential election this Sunday show Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a veteran conservative politician and technocrat, edging ahead of Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of disgraced 1990s strongman Alberto Fujimori.

The preliminary official result with 51.7 percent of the votes counted, gave the Wall Street investor and former prime minister 50.59 percent, just 1.18 points ahead of the ex-congresswoman.


The final results from the election that culminated a tense campaign, viewed by many as a battle for the soul of Peru's fragile democracy, are not expected until Monday. Even so, Alfredo Torres, executive president of polling company Ipsos Peru, said it is now extremely unlikely that Fujimori can snatch victory.

Kuczynski, who is 77 and is often referred to by his initials, PPK, was careful not to claim victory but was notably upbeat when he spoke to supporters in the Peruvian capital Lima.

"We have not won yet. For that, we have to wait for the official results," he said. "We want a democratic country, with dialogue. For that reason, we look at these preliminary results with 100 percent optimism, but also with humility. We abhor dictatorship."

Related: Why Some Peruvians Worry Keiko Fujimori Will Turn the Country into a Narco Paradise

That was a dig at Keiko, as his opponent is normally called, and the legacy of her father, who was president from 1990 to 2000 but is now serving a 25-year jail term for corruption and running death squads.

Throughout her campaign Keiko sought to take advantage of the nostalgia many in Peru feel for her father's achievements, such as taming hyperinflation and leading the country when the Maoist Shining Path guerrillas were finally crushed. At the same time she tried to dodge the blame for his serious human rights abuses, kleptocracy and vote-rigging. This was made more difficult by new allegations of graft and undemocratic behaviour by her Popular Force party.


The allegations featured party general secretary, Joaquín Ramírez, who it emerged is being investigated by the US Drug Enforcement Administration for money laundering.

Keiko's running mate José Chlimper, meanwhile, was caught out in a clumsy attempt to get the media to falsely discredit the DEA informant. Chlimper's apparent sleight-of-hand, giving journalists a doctored audio recording of the informant, reminded many here of Alberto Fujimori's manipulation of press and TV. One of the crimes he is serving time for is systematically using the media to smear his opponents.

If PPK's victory is confirmed, then it is also due in large part to the strong anti-Fujimorista sentiment that exists in the country.

The final days before Sunday's runoff vote were marked by calls from numerous politicians from across the political spectrum calling on the electorate to defend Peruvian democracy from a return to Fujimorismo.

This, together with a strong performance in a presidential debate one week earlier, appear to have helped PPK surge from around five points behind Keiko to pip her to the post.

Though she did not concede defeat, Keiko was noticeably less confident than PPK in her speech to her own supporters on Sunday night.

"Receiving the support of 50 percent of the population fills us with emotion and pride," she said. "We are going to wait prudently because throughout the night the votes will be arriving from the regions, from abroad, and the rural vote of deep Peru."

Related: Peru's Booming Cocaine Business Is Turning It Into Latin America's Newest Narco State

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