Peru Cliffhanger Nears End as Wall Street Veteran Holds Lead

  • Fujimori trails by 0.23 percentage point as count nears end
  • Both candidates are market friendly and plan to spend big

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former central banker and veteran of Wall Street, is getting closer to winning the tightest presidential race in Peru’s history as the count nears its conclusion.

Kuczynski has 50.11 percent of votes with 99.99 percent of ballots counted, compared with 49.89 percent for Keiko Fujimori, the country’s electoral office said Wednesday. The electoral office expects to complete the vote tally Thursday and announce the winner this weekend.

Kuczynski will wait until 100 percent of the ballots have been tallied before claiming victory, Martin Vizcarra, one of his two vice presidential candidates, told reporters in Lima.

“We believe the outcome won’t change but the difference between the candidates will be very narrow,” said Guillermo Loli, opinion polling manager at Ipsos Peru, in an e-mail. 

The presidential race is going down to the wire as Peruvians remain divided over the legacy of Fujimori’s father, Alberto, an autocrat who led the country from 1990 to 2000 and is currently languishing in jail for corruption and authorizing death squads. Opposition to Fujimori has led many people, including supporters of the former left-wing candidate Veronika Mendoza, to rally around the 77-year-old Kuczynski. Others say Keiko Fujimori is the only candidate capable of tackling crime.

As well as stints at the World Bank and Peru’s Finance Ministry, Kuczynski has worked at Kuhn Loeb & Co., First Boston and Halco Mining Inc., a bauxite consortium. He also ran his own private-equity firm for a decade.

Peru’s sol was little changed at 3.3 per dollar at the close of trading in Lima while the country’s main stock index rose 0.07 percent.

Congressional Majority

Kuczynski has stressed his willingness to negotiate with other parties should he win office in order to prevent divisions in congress from paralyzing the legislative process.

“We’re conciliatory and therefore we’ll be able to govern Peru toward a brighter future,” he told cheering supporters after Sunday’s vote.

Fujimori’s party won 73 of the 130 seats in Congress in a parliamentary vote in April, while Kuczynski won 18. It’s the biggest parliamentary majority in two decades.

Fujimori has promised to take what was best from her father’s era, including smashing the terror group Shining Path and defeating hyperinflation, to tackle rising crime and build the economy. While both candidates are market friendly, her style is more populist, his more internationalist.

“We’re respectful of their position and what they represent in parliament,” said Gilbert Violeta, congressman-elect for Kuczynski’s Peruanos Por el Kambio party, in reference to Fujimori’s congressional majority. “Peru needs dialogue and consensus.”

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