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The battle to become Peru's next president

Analysts predict a tight June 5 runoff after this weekend's presidential vote. Left-wing candidate Ollanta Humala is expected to face Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the imprisoned former president Alberto Fujimori.

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Humala, a former army colonel, is classified as a left-wing radical by his adversaries, including most of the mainstream press. One of his biggest pitfalls, for voters is his personal friendship with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. Voter concern about those Chávez ties were brought up often among people waiting in line to vote on Sunday. Perhaps in response to such concerns, Humala told the foreign press on April 8 that he has no problems with Chávez, “but we do not accept the [Venezuelan] model.”

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Analysts say Ms. Fujimori needs to prove to voters that she is mature enough to govern – her age is mentioned often by voters – and, most importantly, that she will actually be the one to govern. A large percentage of voters polled say they fear that her father, who is serving a 25-year sentence on human rights and corruption charges, will be in charge if she wins.

Key voter issues

Pocketbook issues and security concerns, however, were what voters were talking about most on election day.

“This country needs urgent change. We need jobs and security. We don’t even feel safe at home. You get mugged on your own street,” says Angel Yarlaque, voting in Villa El Salvador, a Lima shantytown. “Humala is the only one who thinks about us,” he adds.

In an adjacent polling station, Jasmin Mazur, says she voted for Fujimori, because he respected her father's efforts to help the poor when he was in office. “I believed in her father and now I believe in Keiko. She will do what is best for the poor,” she says.

Next steps

Regardless of who faces Humala, energy will now turn to cobbling together political coalitions.

Fernando Tuesta, who heads the polling institute at Peru’s Catholic University, said this race was based more on the individual candidates than parties or ideologies, so endorsing votes will not be easy.

“Voters are not going to listen to candidates when it comes time to vote in the second round. The winner will be whoever runs the best campaign, who gets the message to the voters,” he says.


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