- Fujimori needs more than 50% to avoid runoff with runner-up
- Recent polls showed Mendoza, Kuczynski tied for 2nd place
Peruvians are voting in a presidential election that is likely to see Keiko Fujimori gain a clear lead over her rivals, while failing to reach the majority needed to avoid a second round of voting in June.
Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. and will close at 4 p.m local time. Close to 23 million Peruvians will cast their ballots to elect a successor to President Ollanta Humala, who is barred from running for a consecutive term, and 130 lawmakers to Peru’s unicameral Congress.
Keiko, the daughter of jailed autocrat Alberto Fujimori, had between 38 percent and 43 percent of the ballots in three simulated votes by polling agencies released this week, buoyed by her pledge to be tough on crime and tap into a $9 billion contingency fund to finance public works. Veronica Mendoza and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski were statistically tied in second place on about half that level. The race for runner-up was thrown open last month after two popular candidates were disqualified, giving way to a late surge in support for Mendoza.
“Keiko is going to win,” said Jesus Gamarra, 40, as he voted in the morning. “I voted for her because she’s the only one who’s going to be able to defeat crime and terrorism.”
At least three soldiers were killed on Saturday when their patrol were ambushed in the valley of the Apurimac, Ene y Mantaro rivers, a region marked by the presence of drug traffickers and the remnants of the Shining Path guerrilla movement.
Mendoza has proposed curbs on the mining industry, increasing corporate taxes and renegotiating natural gas export contracts, with her rise in support fueling a drop in Peru’s currency and bonds last week. The sol slid 0.4 percent against the dollar over the last week.
Kuczynski, a former finance minister and central bank director, has said his government would cut the sales tax, issue more debt to finance public works, and clamp down on the informal economy to boost tax revenue.
The Andean nation is implementing electronic voting on a large scale for the first time, with close to three quarters of a million people casting their ballot this way. The electoral office has said it expects to count 20 percent to 30 percent of the votes by 9 p.m. in Lima.
Ipsos and GfK have said they will release exit polls the minute voting ends.
Peru’s republican history has been marked by a series of military coups, making this the first time since winning independence from Spain 195 years ago that the country is holding a fourth consecutive democratic election.