LIMA, Peru (AP) — The daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori won the first round of Peru’s presidential election Sunday, though she didn’t get enough votes to avoid a June runoff and the race to be her opponent was tight, according to two quick counts of ballots by local pollsters.
Center-right candidate Keiko Fujimori was likely to end up with about 39 percent of the votes, said a quick count carried out by local pollster Ipsos representing 85 percent of polling stations nationwide. Former World Bank economist Pedro Kuczynski was expected to get 22 percent, compared to 18 percent for leftist congresswoman Veronika Mendoza.
A quick count by local pollster Gfk had similar results.
Official results weren’t expected until sometime Sunday night. And the pollsters said the second-place spot for the runoff might not be settled for days as votes from abroad were tallied. More than 880,000 Peruvians living abroad were registered to vote, making up 3.8 percent of the electorate.
Also being decided were all 130 seats in Peru’s congress.
Opinion polls for months gave Fujimori a double-digit lead over her nearest rival among 10 presidential candidates, but not getting the 50 percent required to win outright and avoid the runoff.
Analysts have said either Mendoza or Kuczynski would have a shot at victory in a second round of balloting because of how polarizing a figure Fujimori is among Peruvians, who either adore her father for defeating Maoist-inspired Shining Path rebels and taming hyperinflation or loathe him for human rights abuses and ordering tanks to shut down Congress.
Almost half of Peruvians polled had said they would never vote for anyone associated with the imprisoned Fujimori, who governed from 1990 to 2000 and is serving a 25-year sentence for authorizing death squads and corruption.
While he beat back the guerrillas, a few holdouts remain. On Saturday, suspected Shining Path rebels killed five soldiers and two drivers on their way to a polling place in a mountain town, army officials said.
In a bid to project a more moderate image, the center-right Keiko Fujimori promised not to pardon her father if elected.
Maritza Sacsara, one of the many rural voters who cast votes for Fujimori in the Quecha-speaking village of Iquicha, called her “a born leader” and credited the candidate with campaigning fiercely in small towns and villages often ignored by Peruvian politicians.
In the campaign’s final weeks, Fujimori’s opponents took to city streets by the thousands to warn against what they said would be a return of authoritarian rule if Fujimori became president.
Adding bitterness to the election, two candidates, including Fujimori’s strongest rival, were barred from the race by Peru’s electoral tribunal for campaign violations or technicalities, decisions questioned by the Organization of American States.
Of Fujimori’s two main challengers still in the race, Mendoza represents the biggest shift from the status quo under President Ollanta Humala, who was prevented by the constitution from seeking a second, consecutive term. An admirer of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Mendoza fell out with Humala’s government over its crackdown on anti-mining protesters.
While corruption scandals and economic stress sparked by the end of the commodities boom have pushed much of South America to the right, as evidenced by the defeat of leftist candidates in Argentina and Venezuela, polls have said that more than half of Peruvians are clamoring for more state intervention in the economy — the sort of policy Mendoza favors.
She vowed to radically change the pro-business economic model that propelled record growth over the past decade by ramping up government spending and reducing Peru’s dependence on the extraction of natural resources that she says degrades the environment. Peru is among the world’s top three silver producers.
In a Lima shantytown, bookstore owner Francisco Huaman said he voted for Mendoza in the hope she would support small businesses, tackle corruption and defend the environment.
“Mendoza is the one who offers real change,” he said.
Kuczynski tried to position himself as the candidate of the center, saying he would avoid the dangers of the two “extremes.” But the 77-year-old investor favorite was dogged by his service to past governments and Peruvians’ preference for outsider candidates. Three of Peru’s last four presidents had never run for any office before being elected.
Associated Press writers Rodrigo Abd in Peru’s Ayacucho region and Joshua Goodman in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.
Franklin Briceno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/franklinbriceno . His work can be found at: http://bigstory.ap.org/author/franklin-briceno .