Lima: The nail-biter race for Peru's presidency remained tight as the daughter of imprisoned ex-president Alberto Fujimori gained ground on her rival thanks to votes trickling in from remote rural areas and embassies abroad.
Former World Bank economist Pedro Pablo Kuczysnki's razor-thin lead over Keiko Fujimori shrank to fewer than 47,000 votes early yesterday morning before widening slightly later in the day to over 57,000. With tallies from more than 97 per cent of polling stations counted, Kuczynski had 50.2 per cent of the votes compared with Fujimori's 49.8 per cent.
While two quick counts showed Kuczynski prevailing in a tight contest, still being counted are the ballots cast by 885,000 Peruvians eligible to vote abroad, the last of which are expected to arrive in Peru today.
Peruvians living abroad, the majority in the United States, turned out massively for Fujimori in the 2011 election but are expected to be more split in the support this time around.
About 1,200 handwritten tallies representing up to 360,000 votes were being disputed and were sent to a special electoral board for review, Mariano Cucho, the head of Peru's electoral authority, told RPP Radio yesterday.
Both candidates have remained largely silent while awaiting final results of what is Peru's tightest presidential race since 1962, which ended in a military coup.
"Tranquility and serenity," Kuczynski urged yesterday as he was mobbed by reporters leaving a restaurant. "We have to wait for the final verdict. We're almost there."
Regardless of who wins, half of voters are bound to be disappointed, making it harder for the next president to govern. Aides in both campaigns are jockeying for positions in an eventual alliance in congress, where Fujimori's Popular Force won a solid majority of 73 of 130 seats. Kuczynski's fledgling movement will have just 18, fewer than the country's main leftist alliance.
While Kuczynski's campaign said it is ready to work with all political groups, supporters of Fujimori expressed doubt that the wounds from the final stretch of the campaign, in which Kuczynski accused Keiko Fujimori of being the harbinger of a "narco-state," could be easily healed.
"They called us drug traffickers, thieves," said Lourdes Alcorta, a congresswoman. "It's going to be difficult for us to hug them."
If Kuczynski holds onto his lead, it would be a stunning turnaround. Fujimori topped by more than 20 points a field of 10 candidates in the first round of voting in April and consistently led Kuczynski in polls taken before Sunday's runoff.