Leftist ex-soldier leads Peru poll

Ollanta Humala will face pro-business rivals in a June 5 runoff with the promise to redistribute country's wealth.

    In order to win outright on Sunday, a candidate needed a simple majority [AFP]

    Ollanta Humala, a leftist former soldier, has taken the lead in the first round of Peru's presidential elections, with two pro-business rivals battling for second place and the chance to challenge him in a June 5 run-off, according to official results.

    The latest results from Sunday's vote, with 64.3 percent of ballots tallied, showed Humala with 28.06 percent of the votes, Keiko Fujimori, a 35-year-old daughter of the imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori with 22.49 percent and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a 72-year-old former World Bank economist and investment banker, with 22.29 percent.

    That would mean a June 5 run-off between Humala and Fujimori, who unofficial quick counts have suggested will advance.

    "We want the wealth of Peru to be well distributed," Juan Urteaga, 18, from the Andean city of Cajamarca, said.

    "How is it that my city is close to one of the world's biggest gold mines, Yanacocha, but my city has one of Peru's highest poverty rates?"

    Discredited rivals

    Polls suggest both Fujimori and Kuczynski would have trouble defeating 48-year-old Humala in a second round vote.

    Fujimori supports existing free-market policies, but is shunned by many Peruvians because her father is in prison for corruption and human rights crimes stemming from his crackdown on guerrillas in the 1990s.

    Kuczynski, a former prime minister, known as "El Gringo" because of his European parents, would have trouble gaining traction outside of Lima, where he is strongly backed by wealthy voters.

    Humala, who led a short-lived military revolt in 2000, has softened his anti-capitalist tone since.

    "We are willing to make many concessions to unite Peru, we are going to talk with all political forces," Humala told cheering supporters. "Social problems must be resolved through dialogue."

    In order to win outright on Sunday, a candidate needed a simple majority.

    With emotions running high, officials have called for caution since a clear picture could take several days to emerge.

    Humala's image makeover

    Almost 20 million people were obliged to vote to replace President Alain Garcia, with a fairer division of Peru's booming economy - backed by rich mineral resources - a key issue for more than a third of the population still living in poverty.

    Humala has promised a "great transformation and great redistribution of riches".

    Humala has promised a "great transformation and
    great redistribution of riches" [Reuters]

    He has surged in the race by recasting himself as a moderate in the vein of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and distancing himself from his former political mentor, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

    "Let's vote without fear," Humala said on Sunday.

    His rivals have sought to hurt his chances by saying he would step up state control over the economy, rolling back reforms and jeopardising some $40bn of foreign investment lined up for the next decade in mining and energy exploration.

    Moody's ratings agency said Peru's investment-grade credit rating would not be threatened by an eventual Humala victory.

    Still, Peru's sol currency and the country's main stock index have dipped over the past two weeks on worries Humala could raise mining taxes, hike state subsidies or tighten control of "strategic" sectors like electricity.

    The compulsory vote throughout the South American nation, which stretches from the Amazon to the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, was also for 130 legislators for the one-chamber Congress, which was set to remain fragmented, according to partial results.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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