Son of Jewish doctor leads in Peru presidential elections

June 6, 2016  

(AFP) Peru’s presidential vote faced a tight finish Monday as early results gave Pedro Pablo Kuczynski a lead over his rival Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of a jailed former president.  

Kuczynski is the son of a Jewish doctor from Germany, while Fujimori is the granddaughter of Japanese immigrants.

Both have vowed to unite the country after the violent period of rule by Fujimori’s father Alberto in the 1990s. He is in prison for corruption and for massacring alleged terrorists.

Kuczynski had 50.59 percent of the vote against 49.41 percent for Fujimori, with nearly 52 percent of votes counted, the national elections office said.  

Kuczynski, best known by his initials PPK, earlier urged his supporters to wait for the full official results, but was confident of victory.

“We are hoping to have a government of consensus. No more fighting and confrontation,” he said, waving from a balcony.

“Ole, ole, PPK!” yelled the crowd.  

Fujimori also urged her supporters to sit tight for what looked like a long vote-counting process.

“We are going to wait cautiously because the results will be coming in all night from the regions, from overseas, and the rural vote from deepest Peru. For that reason we are optimistic,” she said.

“We have seen the vitality of Peruvian democracy and that fills me with pride.”

Cocaine and crime

Many voters want Fujimori to win in her bid to become Peru’s first woman president.

They want her to be tough like her father in fighting a wave of violent crime in Peru, a major cocaine-producing country.

Others distrust her because Alberto Fujimori dissolved congress and killed opponents with death squads.  

“I voted for PPK and against the return of the Fujimori dictatorship,” said Katy Escudero, who rallied to celebrate on Sunday night outside Kuczynski’s campaign base.

Peru’s 1980-2000 civil conflict involving leftist insurgents killed an estimated 70,000 people.

Both candidates are right-leaning, US-educated politicians.

They have both vowed to fight crime and create jobs in the nation of 31 million people.

Kuczynski, a former banker, also studied in Britain in the 1950s.

Fujimori a mother of two married to an American citizen, is she is seen as more populist and socially conservative.  

“She is the only one who has signed a commitment to oppose gay marriages. And with her there will be less crime,” voter Silvia Cuadros told AFP.

“Our parents may make mistakes, but that does not mean their children will do the same.”

Former economy minister Kuczynski has a long career in business and finance. His American wife is a cousin of Hollywood actress Jessica Lange.

“He has a lot of experience,” said pro-Kuczynski voter Enrique Castillo, who runs a business exporting clothes.

“We want security and stability so that foreign investment will come.”

Tied in polls

Both candidates are seen as pro-market in their plans to further Peru’s economic growth.

The country is a big exporter of copper, gold and other minerals.

Its strong growth has slowed under outgoing leftist President Ollanta Humala.  

Several other Latin American countries have started shifting to the right as a wave of leftist governments over the past decade weakens.

Fujimori’s side has been hit by allegations of corruption and irregularities.

But it won a majority in the congress in a first-round vote in April.

Kuczynski has less support among poorer voters but “anti-Fujimoristas” flocked to him, said Luis Benavente, director of consultancy Vox Populi.  

Pollsters said the candidates were in a technical tie pending full results.

The head of the national elections office ONPE, Mariano Cucho, announced the updated partial results in a public address.  

Earlier counts by pollsters Ipsos and GfK indicated a similar outcome to those partial official results.  

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