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Candidates in Peru's presidential race square off

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2011-03-07

On April 10 Peru will pick a new president. Almost a dozen candidates are running to replace President Alan Garcia, who is constitutionally barred from another term. FRANCE 24 takes a look at the candidates leading opinion polls.

Peruvians will head to the polls on April 10 to pick a new president and all 130 members of congress. On March 3, eleven candidiates participated in a first presidential debate organized by the Peruvian daily El Comercio. According to opinion polls, only five of them are real contenders to replace President Alan Garcia. If no single candidate wins more than half of the total votes a second round poll will be held.

President of Peru from 2001 to 2006, Alejandro Toledo came to power in the wake of the political crisis that saw president Alberto Fujimori impeached, exiled and eventually charged with corruption and human rights abuses. But Toledo, 64, became very unpopular during parts of his first mandate and his image as a pro-democracy champion was tarnished by speculation of corruption.

Just as in his campaigns for the presidency in 2000 and 2001, Toledo is emphasizing his native indigenous ancestry and his own rise from extreme poverty to prominence. A US-trained economist, he's at the centre of the political spectrum, promising better education among Peru's poorest, as well as defending free trade agreements and entrepreneurship.

Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the shamed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, has launched a brazen challenge to several fixtures of Peruvian politics in her bid for the country's highest office.

At just 35, Fujimori could become the country's first woman president and one of the world's youngest ever heads-of-state. Since her father's imprisonment for human rights crimes, Keiko has inherited his political allies and diehard support base. Many Peruvians continue to admire Alberto Fujimori for stopping runaway inflation and routing Maoist guerrillas in the 1990s.

Keiko earned a business degree from Columbia University in New York and was elected to Peru's congress in 2006. Her campaign party "Fuerza 2011" clearly harks back to her father's "Peru 2000" presidential drive, while her platform defends the free-market economic reforms he implemented while in office.

Luis "Lucho" Castañeda left his job as mayor of the capital city of Lima in October 2010 to run for president. He is hoping to cash in on the 80% approval rating he enjoyed as mayor to reach a second-round contest. While he is known for shying away from the media, observers say Castañeda's wealth will ensure an extensive national campaign.

Castañeda earned praise as an effective manager while heading several state firms. He has promised to extend his tireless agenda of public works in Lima to the rest of the country, plus to improve private investment opportunities.

A former army captain, Ollanta Humala won the most votes in the first  round of the last presidential election, with massive support in Peru's highlands, but eventually lost in the runoff against Alan Garcia. While opinion polls gave him very low scores at the start of the campaigning, Humala has nearly caught up with Fujimori and Castañeda in surveys conducted in March.

He is the only real contender placed squarely on the political left. His platform offers to steer the country away from a capitalist model and the influence of foreign-owned companies, in favour of state planning and strong regional ties.

Opponents' comparisons to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, which includes their military backgrounds, were key to his defeat in the last election.

Pedro Kuczunski has almost no chance of winning the election, but has gathered enough voter support to play spoiler to one of the top candidates, or even kingmaker in the second-round. An Oxford-trained economist, he served as the prime minister and minister of finance in the Toledo government. Kuczunski is a successful investor and has been drawing from his personal wealth to finance his campaign.

Date created : 2011-03-07

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