World

Race for Run-Off Spot Heats up Ahead of Peru Election

Who will Keiko Fujimori face in the second round – Wall Street favourite Pedro Pablo Kuczynski or leftist Veronika Mendoza?

Peru's presidential candidates Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and Keiko Fujimori attend a presidential debate in Lima, Peru, April 3, 2016. Credit:Reuters/Mariana Bazo

Peru’s presidential candidates Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and Keiko Fujimori attend a presidential debate in Lima, Peru, April 3, 2016. Credit:Reuters/Mariana Bazo

Lima: The race for second place in the first round of Peru‘s presidential election was still wide open on April 8, two days before the vote, with polls split over who would earn the chance to face long-time front-runner Keiko Fujimori in an expected run-off.

Peru‘s stock market closed 4% higher after Wall Street favourite Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was seen as ending in second place with 20.8% of valid votes, ahead of leftist Veronika Mendoza with 16.5%, at the April 10 election, according to a survey by GfK.

Polls by Ipsos and Datum showed the two second place contestants within one point of each other, though Mendoza’s momentum appears to have slowed.

“Veronika hasn’t increased voters so much in recent days. She rose a lot since March but less recently,” Urpi Torrado, of pollster Datum, told foreign reporters at a news conference.

Fujimori, the daughter of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori, was still seen about 10 points short of the 50% of votes needed to win outright. Her support has slipped since tens of thousands protested against her on April 5.

A Fujimori-Kuczynski run-off in June would likely ensure Peru‘s free-market model of the last quarter century prevails in the top metals producer, no matter the winner.

Mendoza’s surprise surge in recent weeks has spooked markets as she has swept up scores of undecided voters with promises of radically transforming the country’s mining-dependent economy.

Kuczynski, a 77-year-old son of European immigrants who had struggled to gain traction with poor rural voters in the last election, has ramped up efforts to portray Mendoza as a threat to Peru‘s long stretch of economic growth.

A video called “24 Hours to Save Peru” launched on YouTube urged voters to rally behind Kuczynski to avoid a “disastrous second round” that would force Peruvians to choose between Fujimori and “a communist model that would destroy Peru.”

Mendoza’s supporters on social media dismissed the attack as desperate fear-mongering.

Mendoza, dressed in red, chose Lima’s historic May 2 Plaza to end her campaign, praising the history of union and human rights protests that had taken place there.

“We aren’t here to make adjustments, patches, or to apply makeup, we want a real transformation,” she told supporters in a possible jab at outgoing President Ollanta Humala, a former leftist who governed more moderately than expected.

Mendoza would like Peru to become less reliant on mining and wants to curb exports of oil and natural gas to prioritize domestic demand.

(Reuters)