Peru’s presidential race was tightening yesterday on the eve of today’s elections, with one poll showing a virtual tie between candidates Keiko Fujimori, daughter of an ex-leader jailed for massacres, and former Wall Street banker Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.
A divisive, conservative figure, the 41-year-old Fujimori remains the favorite to win the runoff vote, despite her father and former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori’s dark legacy.
However, three last-minute polls showed her earlier estimated lead of more than 5 percentage points had narrowed.
Part of the large chunk of previously undecided voters appeared to be opting for Kuczynski, 77, a former economy minister and World Bank executive.
Pollster GfK on Friday said its latest survey indicated Fujimori had 50.3 percent of the vote to 49.7 percent for Kuczynski.
“That is clearly a technical tie,” GfK director Hernan Chaparro told foreign media during a news conference.
Another pollster, Datum, said Fujimori had 52.1 percent of the vote to 47.9 percent for Kuczynski, known as “PPK.”
“PPK is gaining support from undecided voters,” Datum director Urpi Torrado said.
Pollster CPI on Thursday gave Fujimori 51.6 percent to 48.4 percent for Kuczynski.
CPI director Manuel Saavedra estimated about 5 percent of voters are still undecided, which would be enough to swing the result against the populist conservative Fujimori.
Fujimori is popular among poor rural communities but also has a high disapproval rating nationwide.
Many Peruvians associate Fujimori with her father’s authoritarian rule. He is in jail for corruption and crimes against humanity connected with massacres of opponents he alleged were terrorists in the 1990s.
About 23 million Peruvians are obliged to vote today in the election to replace outgoing leftist Peruvian President Ollanta Humala.
Both candidates have vowed to fight crime and create jobs in the South American mineral exporter, one of the region’s strongest economies.
“I want to be president of Peru to work for change... to build a great, prosperous country that is united and reconciled,” Fujimori told supporters at her closing campaign rally. “With the support of all of you, I will have the honor of becoming Peru’s first woman president.”
Kuczynski stressed his long experience as a financier and minister.
“We are going to hit the ground running,” he told supporters of his Peruvians for Change party. “We will not have to read the instruction manual, because we know what must be done.”
The election campaigns have been stained by allegations of corruption and irregularities.
Ahead of the first round, opponents tried to get Keiko Fujimori excluded for alleged vote-buying.
The electoral board dismissed the case against her, but expelled several other candidates.
A corruption scandal struck Joaquin Ramirez, the secretary-general of her Popular Force Party.
He resigned after media revealed the US Drug Enforcement Agency was investigating him over suspected money-laundering.
Kuczynski has vowed to stamp out corruption and violence by drug gangs.
Fujimori criticized him as an ally of big business who is out of touch with ordinary citizens.
“For many people, it is surprising that she enjoys such popularity, but many of Keiko’s supporters remember her father’s tough line on terrorism and think that she can be similarly tough on crime,” consultancy consultancy analyst Maria Luisa Puig told reporters.
“Peruvian elections are always quite unpredictable,” she added.
A poll by Ipsos a week ahead of the vote had given Fujimori a lead of 5.3 percentage points.
Since then, she has faced a tough televised debate with Kuczynski and a mass rally against her in Lima on Tuesday.
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