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Leftist makes a comeback as presidential vote nears

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2011-03-28

Leftist candidate Ollanta Humala is on track to win the first round of presidential elections in Peru on April 10 after a sudden advance in opinion polls.

Only as far back as March 14, Peru’s leftist presidential candidate Ollanta Humala was said to be headed toward his political demise. Struggling to reach double digits in opinion polls, Humala was a distant fourth in the race and being written off as a has-been by analysts.

But with less than two weeks to go before Peruvians head to polls on April 10, Humala has surprisingly overtaken his opponents and is now on track to win the first round.

In a survey published on Sunday, leading Peruvian polling agency Ipsos Apoyo gave Humala 22.8% of votes, just ahead of 22.3% for candidate Keiko Fujimori, daughter of Peru's disgraced former president, Alberto Fujimori. Former president Alejandro Toledo, who has led in polls since December, has dropped down to third place, Ipsos figures show.
 
In a separate survey conducted for RPP radio, the CPI polling agency also put Humala ahead for the first time, with a slightly wider margin over Fujimori and Toledo than in the Ipsos tally.  

The only real presidential contender from the left, Humala won the first round of Peru’s presidential elections in 2006 but eventually lost in the run-off against President Alan Garcia.
 
A ‘less radical’ image
 
Analysts attribute Humala’s comeback to his new moderate image. Speaking to América Televisión on Sunday, the director of the Ipsos poll, Alfredo Torres, said the leftist candidate’s new strategy of “presenting a less radical image” was consistently winning over voters.

Humala, a candidate from the Peruvian Nationalist Party, is a former army captain who has challenged the country’s free-market economic model. Critical comparisons to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, which noted that the two men share a military background, are said to have been crucial to Humala’s defeat in the last election.

In contrast to his 2006 presidential bid, Humala has tried to distance himself from Chavez. In late February, Humala openly criticised the Venezuelan president for his failure to condemn Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Cultivating the image of a caring family man has become a priority for the new Humala, who has invited camera crews into his home to talk about his “Christian-Catholic convictions” and show off his newborn son.     

Back in the spotlight

Back on the campaign trail, Humala has promised to raise the minimum wage and prioritise domestic needs in developing Peru’s natural resources.  

Before last Sunday’s poll, he was largely ignored by other electoral contenders. Most media attention likewise focused on the potential face-off between Fujimori and former Lima mayor Luis Castañeda, who was polling well until recently.  

But Humala’s newfound position as front-runner has already made him the prime target of both candidates and commentators. On Monday, Castañeda said Humala represented “a threat to Peru’s stability” and promptly likened him to Chavez.

Fujimori told RPP radio that the new poll was a reason for concern. A victory for Humala, she said, would be a “great step backwards for the country”.

 

Date created : 2011-03-28

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