Divisive Fujimori faces runoff battle to lead Peru

Keiko Fujimori has vowed to unite Peru after her first-round presidential election victory, but she faces a fierce runoff battle to overcome the divisive legacy of her jailed father.

Lima: Keiko Fujimori has vowed to unite Peru after her first-round presidential election victory, but she faces a fierce runoff battle to overcome the divisive legacy of her jailed father.

The 40-year-old conservative candidate claimed a boost from Sunday`s vote in her quest to become the first female president of the South American mineral-exporting nation.

But she faces resistance from voters who mistrust her because her father Alberto Fujimori is in jail for corruption and human rights atrocities committed during his 1990-2000 presidency.

She also faces a challenge from moderate conservative Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, 77, a British- and US-educated former World Bank executive, who has vowed to defeat the "Fujimoristas."

Official results with 82.6 percent of votes counted on Monday showed Fujimori had 39.55 percent of the vote against 22.1 percent for Kuczynski, known as "PPK."

He beat left-wing contender Veronika Mendoza to win second place.

In the second round on June 5, "Kuczynski will get lots of anti-Fujimorista votes," said Luis Benavente, head of the polling agency Vox Populi.

"The second round will be very polarized."Keiko Fujimori worked during her campaign to distance herself from her father`s authoritarian image. He was sentenced in 2009 to 25 years in jail for massacres of supposed terrorists by death squads in 1991 and 1992.

Celebrating her first-round victory with a broad smile on Sunday night, Keiko Fujimori vowed to unite the country.

"Peru wants reconciliation and no more conflict," she said.

"We have to step on the accelerator of growth again so it reaches all the remote villages" of the country, she added.

Strengthening her hand, Keiko`s Popular Force party also won a big majority in Peru`s single-chamber congress in Sunday`s vote.

Her younger brother Kenji scored highly and is seeking to be elected president of the chamber.

With a slick electoral machine that held glittering campaign rallies, Keiko Fujimori had been widely tipped in polls to win Sunday`s vote by double digits.

But the balance of power can shift over the coming months. Opinion polls have given a mixed picture of which candidate might win in June.

Latin America analyst Maria Luisa Puig at the Eurasia Group wrote in a note Monday that Fujimori could "win a tight race due to her appeal to poor voters, a sector Kuczynski will struggle to reach."Fujimori and Kuczynski have vowed to strengthen law and order and invest in services for the poor in this country of 30 million people.

Forty percent of Peruvians live at risk of poverty, according to development charity Oxfam.

Economic analysts said foreign investors would be relieved that Mendoza was out of the running since she had vowed to tighten state control of Peru`s resources.

The Lima stock exchange surged by 8.5 percent on Monday morning after the election result.

The country has one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America, despite a recent fall in commodity prices. Growth slowed in recent years under outgoing President Ollanta Humala.

Both US-educated, Fujimori and Kuczynski say they are committed to maintaining Peru`s economic growth through foreign trade and investment.

"Regardless of who wins, a continuation of current business-friendly economic and investment policies is likely," wrote Puig.

In Lima, 19-year-old student Josue Maravi said he voted for Mendoza and will now back Kuczynski -- not because he likes him, but because he does not trust Keiko Fujimori after her father`s rule.

"These two candidates are virtually the same," he said on Monday.

"But I think Peruvians that voted for Mendoza will now vote for PPK, so the Fujimori story does not happen again."


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