Humala claims victory in tight Peru poll

Partial official results show a narrow lead for leftist Ollanta Humala in presidential election
 
Ollanta Humala celebrates initial victory in tight Peru presidential race in the capital city, Lima [AF]

Ollanta Humala, a left-wing former army commander, has claimed victory in Peru’s presidential poll, as partial official results show him holding a razor-thin lead.
With three quarters of the country’s ballot boxes counted on Sunday, Humala (50.087 per cent) held a lead of about 20,600 votes over Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori.
The first official count represented a higher proportion of urban votes, which tend to favour Fujimori, election officials said.
Three survey firms earlier released exit polls and quick counts, all of which showed Humala winning the election.
Analysts say it is still too early to rule out a vote recount, as the election appears too close to accurately predict.
Humala’s supporters, however, were already celebrating on Sunday evening. They chanted slogans in downtown Lima, the Peruvian capital, and waved red and white flags while dancing in a crowd of about 5,000 people.
“The results have been given, the quick counts show us that we’ve successfully got here and we’ve won the elections in Peru,” Humala shouted over a cheering crowd, many waving red and white Peruvian flags.

“Keiko is done,” read one banner as an effigy of her burned. Fujimori’s father, Alberto, was president through the 1990s, until his government collapsed under a cloud of corruption and human rights scandals.

“Fujimori never again,” read another banner.

Leftist tempers anti-capitalist rhetoric

Humala, 48, is a left-wing leader but has moderated his anti-capitalist views since he narrowly lost the 2006 elections. Nevertheless, investors and financial markets view him with caution, and Peru’s currency and stock market have plunged in recent weeks as he has gained ground in opinion polls.

Ismael Benavides, Peru’s finance minister, told the Reuters news agency that the country has a “contingency plan” to inject liquidity into markets if they suffer due to speculation on Monday, even as Humala’s campaign has reiterated vows to manage the economy prudently.

He also campaigned on promises of sharing out Peru’s rich mineral wealth after a decade of record growth.

He allied himself closely with socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in his first run for the office in 2006, which he narrowly lost to Alan Garcia. This time he softened his rhetoric and disavowed Chavez, promising instead to follow Brazil’s market-friendly model.

Investors have tended to be more comfortable backing Fujimori, 36, but Humala has attacked her over her father’s record leading the country, including his 1992 decision to shut down Congress in order to consolidate his power.

Keiko Fujimori in turn accused Humala of planning to dismantle free-market reforms that her father put in place. The reforms spurred an unprecedented economic surge over the past decade, after years of guerrilla wars and economic chaos.

Alberto Fujimori defeated a Maoist rebel army, but fled into exile in 2000 after his government was hit by a series of scandals. He is now serving a 25-year prison sentence for corruption and ordering the use of death squads against suspected leftists.

Supported by the poor

Humala is backed largely by one in three Peruvians who are poor and have not benefited from a mining boom that has fuelled economic growth averaging 7 per cent annually since 2001.

Mirko Lauer, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera that “Humala has managed [to win support] by moving to the centre-right to produce a feeling of confidence”.

Lauer said that a victory for Humala would be very significant.

“Mr Humala would have to produce a Brazilian-type government that will sort of mix the left in politics with the right in the economy, and produce a type of social policy that will get him across.”

A win for Humala would be the first return of the left to power in Peru since the 1968-1975 military regime of Juan Velasco Alvaredo.

Almost 20 million Peruvians were eligible to vote for a successor to centre-right President Alan Garcia.


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