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Leftist Humala leads Peru election polls, but undecided voters could cause upset

Eleven percent of the electorate was still undecided ahead of today's Peru election, a fact that could swing the vote away from leading candidate Ollanta Humala.

By Lucien ChauvinCorrespondent / April 10, 2011

Electoral workers load boxes of ballots for delivery to polling stations, in Lima, Peru, Saturday. Sunday's presidential race is shaping up as the most unpredictable in decades. The latest polls indicate that the leftist Humala lead by a margin, but undecided voters could change that.

Silvia Izquierdo/AP

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Lima, Peru

Peru’s closely fought presidential election may come down to voters like Miguel Peña when more than 19 million people go to the polls today.

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Mr. Peña, who helps park cars at a supermarket in Lima, the capital, has not decided who he will vote for out of a field of 10 candidates. He says he is still trying to decide between front-runner Ollanta Humala, former President Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), and former Finance Minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

“I like Humala, because he says he will work for the poor, but we hear on the radio that he will take the country backwards. I haven’t decided, but I think it might be Humala,” he says.

Peña is among 11 percent of the electorate that is still undecided and could toss a last-minute wrench into a race that has seen four people take the lead in the past two months. Mr. Humala, the only major left-wing candidate in the race, was the latest to break out of the pack.

And he has broken out decisively, according to internal polls seen by the Monitor but not allowed to be published. Fernando Tuesta, head of the polling institute at Peru’s Catholic University, says Humala “will make it to a second round unless something catastrophic happens.”

Most private polls now project him winning about 30 percent of the vote, a 10-point lead over the second place candidate, but still very far from the overall majority needed to win outright and avoid a runoff scheduled for June 5.

Candidates gang up on Humala

Other candidates in the race are warning of dire consequences if Humala were to govern Peru and they all want to be the one to stop him. Mr. Toledo, 64, who only one month ago appeared on track to coast to victory and is now battling for his political life, has started running ads calling Humala a danger and saying Peru would stumble backwards at a rapid pace if he were to win.

Mr. Kuczynski is in the same boat as Toledo, but he has been trending upward and could break out if voters such as Peña make the last minute decision to vote for the 72-year-old economist and concert flautist. He has been taken to task for only renouncing his US citizenship in late March, when it looked like he had a fighting chance for an upset, but on Saturday he got a boost with an endorsement from the ruling APRA party.

Kuczynski, who was one of Toledo’s finance ministers, says a Humala victory “would be nefarious for Peru. He could waste 10 years of growth and set the country back decades.”

Toledo and Kuczynski, who are in a dead heat, may be criticizing the frontrunner, but their sights are actually set on Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori. They would need to beat her to get into a runoff with Humala. She is polling at about 22 percent, within the margin of error of most polls for either man to beat her. She has been stuck at this level most of the campaign, with Toledo dropping below and Kuczynski sneaking up on her.

Keiko Fujimori touts record of imprisoned father

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