By Adriana Leon and Chris Kraul
Los Angeles Times
April 11, 2011
Peru's electoral commission, with about 43 per cent of the votes counted Sunday night, and unofficial tallies put Humala ahead of his closest competitors, Keiko Fujimori, a former congresswoman and daughter of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori, and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former economy and finance minister. Former President Alejandro Toledo appeared well behind the other candidates. The top two finishers will face each other in a runoff election June 5, unless a candidate is able to win more than 50 per cent of the votes cast Sunday.
Complete electoral commission results were expected Monday. The early tallies showed a close race for second place between Fujimori and Kuczynski.
Humala, 47, a former army officer, founder of the populist Nationalist Party, and friend of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, was the surprise of the campaign. His success has been tied to the sentiment among many Peruvians that the country's impressive economic growth in recent years has not sufficiently filtered down to the poor.
He has promised to raise minimum wage by 20 per cent, force mining companies to pay more taxes, and to make credit more available to the poor. He also promised to cut natural gas exports to make sure Peruvians got low cost energy.
"Humala will change the current economic model. He wouldn't govern just for the rich. With him in office, Peru will have less inequality," said Judith Aragon Linares, a 30-year old graphic designer and Humala supporter after voting in Lima.
"I decided to give his plan a chance," said Desiree Chumbe de Aguila, a 19-year-old student. "I had strong objections to the other candidates and so I was left with him."
Humala also won the first round of the 2006 presidential election before losing in a runoff to President Alan Garcia, who won 53 per cent of the votes to Humala's 47 per cent. He lost partly because of fears among some voters that he would take Peru down the same socialist path as Chavez in Venezuela.
In 2006, Humala had flaunted his friendship with Chavez and wore red shirts at campaign events to emulate the Venezuelan socialist. But he struck a far different tone this year, appearing in sober gray and dark blue suits and ties.
"Peru has changed and so have I," Humala said at a recent campaign stop.
He has denied receiving campaign aid from Chavez, and after the Venezuelan leader earlier described him as a "good soldier," Humala said Chavez should stay out of the campaign. "I don't need him to tell me that I am a good soldier or not."
But markets in Peru are nervous about the prospect of Humala as president, fearing he may impose socialist policies similar to those of Chavez.
As Humala's poll numbers rose in the final weeks of the campaign, Peruvian bond prices fell and Peru's currency lost value, even as other Latin American currencies rose against the dollar.
Humala's use of Brazilian campaign advisers associated with President Dilma Rousseff's leftist Workers Party also created some controversy in the final weeks. They advised him to use the campaign slogan, "Honesty makes a difference."
According to the blog of one of the advisers, Luis Favre, the team advised him to de-emphasize the populism of the previous campaign while advertising the candidate's honesty, a play toward the electorate's dissatisfaction with old-style politics.
As an army officer, Humala once led counterinsurgency maneuvers against Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, rebels.
Keiko Fujimori, 35, has backtracked on her previous promise to pardon her father if she was elected. Alberto Fujimori is serving a prison sentence on human rights abuses that left 25 dead in the 1990s.
"I voted for Keiko because she appeals to me as a woman, wife, mother and professional," said Lima housewife Maria Luisa Godoy. "It's the best option for those of us who supported her father who defeated terrorism and raised the nation's economy."