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Leftist ahead as presidential poll heads to run-off vote

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-04-11

Partial results Sunday indicated that left-wing nationalist Ollanta Humala (pictured) led the first round of Peru’s presidential election. However, he did not gain the necessary 50%, meaning a second round is likely.

AFP - Leftist ex-soldier Ollanta Humala led in the first round of Peru's presidential elections Sunday, according to a count of 43 percent of the vote which showed a very tight race and a likely second round.         

Right-wing lawmaker Keiko Fujimori, daughter of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori, and liberal ex-prime minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski fought a close battle behind.
             
Humala, 48, who just missed out on the 2006 presidency, won 27 percent of the vote, according to the electoral authority's partial count at 1030 pm (0330 GMT).
             
Kuczynski, a 72-year-old former World Bank economist, was second with 23.6 percent, and Fujimori, 35, had 21.8 percent.
             
Exit polls and first estimates placed Fujimori second.
             
Former president Alejandro Toledo, 65, who sunk in popularity during the campaign, had 15.4 percent.
             
With emotions high, officials called for caution since a clear picture could take several days to emerge. A candidate needs more than half the vote to win straight off.
             
Almost 20 million people were obliged to vote to replace President Alain Garcia, with a fairer division of Peru's booming economy -- backed by rich mineral resources -- a key issue for more than a third of the population still living in poverty.
             
If Fujimori took second place, Peru would face a battle between the election's two most polarizing candidates, a left-wing nationalist who rivals liken to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and the daughter of an ex-strongman who many fear would influence her rule from behind bars.
             
"It would be really bad if that happened," said 21-year-old student Yasmina Medrano, as she voted in Lima in her first ever election, choosing Kuczynski for his "experience."
             
Humala has promised a "great transformation and great redistribution of riches" while brushing up his image in his second bid to take power.
             
He sought to reassure nervous investors with promises of careful fiscal policy, respect for free trade deals and no plans to seek re-election, turning away from his former leftist mentor Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez toward the more moderate model of Brazil.
             
"Let's vote without fear," Humala said Sunday.
             
Fujimori benefits from die-hard supporters of her father -- the iron-fisted president of the 1990s now jailed for human rights abuses during a clampdown on leftist guerrillas, but also remembered for reining in hyperinflation.
             
Her experience includes her public role as Peru's "first lady" aged 19 following her parents' divorce, and many fear she will try to free her father if elected.
             
Kuczynski overtook centrist Toledo during the campaign with support from Lima's elite, a savvy Internet campaign and late backing from the ruling APRA party that has no candidate and said it wished to help a "candidate with democratic convictions" to a June second round.
             
Many moderate voters said they saw Kuczynski as the best chance to avoid a head-to-head between Fujimori and Humala, repeating a comment from Peru's Nobel Prize-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who compared that choice to one between cancer and terminal AIDS.
             
The compulsory vote throughout the South American nation, which stretches from the Amazon to the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, was also for 130 lawmakers for the one-chamber Congress, which was set to remain fragmented, according to partial results.
             
Under Peruvian law, Garcia was unable to stand for a second consecutive term.

 

 

Date created : 2011-04-11

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