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Vote counts by two major pollsters after ballots closed indicated former financier and ex-minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was on top.
But the race was still too close to call, with no more than one point separating him from his rival, conservative Keiko Fujimori, 41. Her father Alberto is in jail for corruption and the slaughter of alleged terrorists in the 1990s.
The runoff election has forced voters to confront the South American nation’s dark past. A 1980-2000 civil conflict involving leftist insurgents killed an estimated 70,000 people.
“We want no more dictatorships. There was a lot of repression and a lot of people died and disappeared,” said Enrique Castillo, a 61-year-old queueing to vote in Lima.
Others hope Keiko Fujimori will win and be tough like her father in fighting a wave of violent crime inPeru, a major cocaine-producing country.
“Her father did good things too against crime,” said administrative worker Silvia Cuadros, 45, waiting in line to vote for Fujimori. “Our parents may make mistakes, but that does not mean their children will do the same.”
Cheering supporters of the candidates gathered in separate rallies in Lima to watch the results come in on Sunday evening. First official results were expected around 0200 GMT on Monday.
Fujimori and Kuczynski earlier spoke to television crews at their traditional election-morning breakfasts with their families. “Go out and vote, do it early and let us do it united, thinking of our country,” Fujimori said. “Today is a day of celebration and the winner should be Peru.” Kuczynski called for a “government of unity.”
“Vote happily and think of democracy and dialogue. That is the only thing that will save us from corruption, drug-trafficking and turbulence.”
Both candidates are right-leaning, US-educated politicians. Kuczynski, son of a Jewish doctor from Germany, also studied in Britain in the 1950s. They have both vowed to fight crime and create jobs in the nation of 31 million people.
Fujimori is the granddaughter of Japanese immigrants. A mother of two, married to an American, she is seen as more populist and socially conservative. She would be Peru’s first woman president.
“She is the only one who has signed a commitment to oppose gay marriages. And with her there will be less crime,” Cuadros told AFP.
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. Keiko has never worked,” said Castillo, who runs a business exporting clothes. “We want security and stability so that foreign investment will come.”
Tied in polls
The campaigns have been stained by allegations of corruption and irregularities. Kuczynski has less support among poorer voters but “anti-fujimoristas” were flocking to him, said Luis Benavente, director of consultancy Vox Populi.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 declined under outgoing President Ollanta Humala.
Pollsters said the candidates were locked in a technical tie pending official results. Earlier exit polls by Ipsos and Gfk gave a slight lead to Kuczynski. But a survey by CPI put Fujimori slightly ahead.
Whichever candidate eventually clinches a lead, however small, will win the vote. In a close first round on April 10, Fujimori’s side won a majority in the congress. hat could make Kuczynski’s job difficult if he wins the election.