By Franklin Briceno
LIMA, Peru (AP) — The daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori held a strong lead April 11 in preliminary results from the first round of Peru’s presidential election and appeared to be headed to a showdown with another center-right candidate in a June runoff.
With 67 percent of the ballots counted, Keiko Fujimori had 39 percent of the vote, while former World Bank economist Pedro Kuczynski held 24 percent. Leftist congresswoman Veronika Mendoza, who had made a late surge in pre-election polls, was in third at 17 percent.
Fujimori was the front-runner for months and looked poised to outdo even the most-optimistic first round scenarios in polls published on the eve of voting.
But she will face an uphill battle in the second round because of how polarizing a figure her father remains among Peruvians.
While Alberto Fujimori is remembered fondly by many, especially in the long-overlooked countryside, for defeating Maoist-inspired Shining Path rebels and taming hyperinflation, he is detested by large segments of the urban middle class for human rights abuses and his order for the military to shut down Congress. Almost half of Peruvians surveyed said they would never vote for anyone associated with the former leader and thousands took to the streets a week ago to warn that Keiko Fujimori’s election could bring back authoritarian rule.
In a bid to project a more moderate image, Fujimori promised during her campaign not to pardon her father, who is serving a 25-year sentence for authorizing death squads during his decade-long rule. She told supporters it was time to bury the past.
“Peruvians want reconciliation and don’t want to fight anymore,” she told supporters, while standing on a truck parked outside a luxury Lima hotel.
Fujimori’s Popular Force party secured an estimated 60 seats in the 130-member congress, while five other parties split the remaining seats.
The April 11 elections provided notable defeats for traditional politicians. Two former presidents, Alejandro Toledo and Alan Garcia, finished near the bottom of the 10-candidate field, while the congressional slate for Garcia’s almost century-old APRA party barely got by the minimum 5 percent threshold to hold onto its legal standing.
Adding bitterness to the race, two candidates, including Fujimori’s strongest rival, were barred from the race by Peru’s electoral tribunal for campaign violations or technicalities, decisions questioned by the Organization of American States.