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Candidates on the attack in final presidential debate

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2011-05-30

Presidential candidates Keiko Fujimori (left) and Ollanta Humala (right) exchanged bitter words in a televised debate on Sunday, their final encounter before Peruvians head to the polls on June 5.

Presidential hopefuls Ollanta Humala and Keiko Fujimori squared off in a bitter final debate on Sunday in Lima, one week before general elections that will decide the Andean country’s next president.

The run-off poll is pitting a leftist former soldier against the daughter of a shamed former president, with both candidates trying to convince voters they have broken with their pasts.

A survey published on Sunday by the trusted Ipsos Apoyo polling agency gave Fujimori 41% support to Humala’s 39%, with 8% of people surveyed saying they were undecided. Fujimori’s lead has narrowed by two percentage points from the previous week.

On Sunday, Humala attacked his rival by stating that it would not be her, but her shamed father, ex-president Alberto Fujimori, who would run the country from the prison he has been in since 2007. Humala has often repeated this claim during his campaign.

“I am the candidate, not Alberto Fujimori,” Keiko Fujimori shot back. “If you want to debate with me, challenge my ideas. If you want to debate with Alberto Fujimori you can go to the Diroes [prison]. If I am elected Peru’s president it will be me who makes the decisions,” she added.

At just 35, Keiko 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 and graft, Keiko has become a congresswoman and has inherited his political allies and diehard support base.

Many Peruvians continue to admire Alberto Fujimori for stopping runaway inflation and routing the so-called “Shining Path” Maoist guerrillas in the 1990s. 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.

Cultivating moderate image

Ollanta Humala won the first round of the presidential elections on April 10, drawing most of his support from the mostly poor and indigenous highlands. Since then he has seen Fujimori advance ahead of him in opinion polls.

Keiko also hit hard on Sunday, accusing Humala of being anti-democratic and recalling his involvement in two former coup attempts in 2000 and 2005, the latter during former president Alenjandro Toledo’s tenure.

Humala defended his record, saying he had “always fought against the dictatorships. [Against] the Shining Path, which wanted to establish itself in this country, and Fujumori, with honour.”

During Alberto Fujimori’s tenure, Humala was an army captain that fought against the Maoist rebels.

The only candidate placed squarely on the political left, Humala has nonetheless made many efforts to cast a more moderate image among voters.

During the run-up to next Sunday’s elections, for example, Humala has backed away from talk about a state-owned pension-fund system to replace the Peru’s current private model.

Analysts have said that comparisons to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, which includes their military backgrounds, were key to Humala’s second-round defeat to President Alan Garcia in the 2006 presidential elections.

According to an online survey conducted by Peru’s leading daily El Comercio after Sunday’s debate, 16% of people said they would switch their vote, while 84% of people said they would not.

Date created : 2011-05-30

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