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Peru votes in divisive battle of the populists

Conservative Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori and left-leaning retired military officer Ollanta Humala have ratcheted up negative campaign tactics in the run-up to today's Peru election.

By Lucien ChauvinCorrespondent / June 5, 2011

Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori gestures after casting her ballot in the runoff presidential election in Lima, Sunday.

Enrique Castro-Mendivil/Reuters

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Lima, Peru

Peruvians are flocking to the polls to pick a new president today in the closest and most polarized election in the country’s modern history.

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Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori – conservative daughter of former right-wing President Alberto Fujimori, who is currently serving a 25-year sentence for corruption and human rights abuses – ended the race in a statistical tie with retired military officer Ollanta Humala, with the final surveys giving the left-leaning populist a slight edge.

“This is the closest election we have seen in Peru and the country is evenly divided,” says Fernando Tuesta, head of the Catholic University of Peru’s Public Opinion Institute, pointing out that Mr. Humala and Ms. Fujimori were the two with the highest negative ratings of the 11 candidates that competed in the first round of voting on April 10.

Both opposing populists have ratcheted up negative campaign tactics in the run-up to today's vote, each seeking to paint the other as a puppet and saving their major artillery for the supposed puppet masters: the imprisoned Mr. Fujimori and Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chávez.

A surrogate of her father?

The Humala campaign has portrayed Fujimori as a surrogate of her father, who served as president from 1990-2000. His image secured her passage into the runoff, but it might be the final reason why she loses.

Ms. Fujimori began her campaign with a pledge to pardon him. She has since dropped that idea, but it is his 10-year regime, which the anti-corruption group Transparency International called a “kleptocracy,” that weighs heavy in the campaign.

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