Peru votes on Fujimori daughter in chaotic election

2016-04-10 17:01
Peruvian National soldier stands guard at a polling station in Lima. (Martin Bernetti, AFP)

Peruvian National soldier stands guard at a polling station in Lima. (Martin Bernetti, AFP)

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Lima - Peruvians voted on Sunday on whether Keiko Fujimori, daughter of an ex-president jailed for massacres, should become their first female leader in an election marred by alleged vote-buying and deadly attacks.

Polls opened at 08:00 (13:00 GMT) and were due to close at 21:00 GMT, with 23 million of the South American country's 30 million inhabitants called to cast ballots in the compulsory vote.

Half the candidates have dropped out or been excluded from the running under a tough new electoral law that saw Fujimori and other leading candidates accused of wooing voters with gifts.

The 40-year-old daughter of former leader Alberto Fujimori survived the charges and is likely to win about a third of the vote, according to three opinion polls published on Friday.

That would send her to a run-off vote in June against whoever finishes second.

Fighting it out for second place are ex-prime minister and Wall Street banker Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, 77, and left-wing lawmaker Veronika Mendoza, 35.

Nine other candidates have either been excluded for irregularities or dropped out for lack of support. One, Gregorio Santos, is running for office from a jail cell where he is detained on corruption charges.

The leader of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, said the January electoral reform that allowed the candidates to be excluded risked turning it into a "semi-democratic election."

 Dark Fujimori days

Alberto Fujimori's dark decade in power from 1990-2000 lives in the memory of many Peruvians, but that has not stopped his daughter from rising to top the opinion polls at the head of her Popular Force party.

"I have a firm conviction that with God's help I will become the first woman president of Peru," she told thousands of supporters waving orange flags at her closing rally.

The Fujimoris are among thousands of families of Japanese descent who immigrated to Peru in search of a better economic future.

Alberto Fujimori, now 77, is in jail for crimes against humanity. The courts held him responsible for the massacre of 25 people he said were terrorists in 1991 and 1992.

"Politics is dirty. I find it incredible that Keiko could be president," said Diego Ramirez, 25, a Lima bank worker.

"Her father was corrupt and a killer. She didn't do anything as a congresswoman. All she has is her family name."

But many voters praise Alberto Fujimori for crushing the Shining Path communist guerrilla group that carried out attacks and kidnappings.

"If Fujimori had continued as president, the country would be in a better state now," said taxi driver Felizardo Mogollon, 58.

Attacks before election

The conflict reared its head on Saturday, when four soldiers and a civilian were killed in one of two attacks by remnants of Shining Path still hiding in the jungle.

The three soldiers and a driver were killed as they were taking forces to guard voting stations in the Junin region. A separate attack on a military boat on a river in the southeast injured two soldiers.

Officials vowed the violence would not disrupt the election. Around 50 000 troops will be deployed to guard polling stations across the country.

Despite his authoritarian rule, Alberto Fujimori liberalized the economy and oversaw an economic boom. Growth has slowed in recent years under outgoing President Ollanta Humala.

"I trust in Keiko," said Mogollon, the taxi driver. "She is a woman who is going to work for citizens' security and improve the economy."

Kuczynski has vowed to create jobs by boosting business and growth. Mendoza has promised to strengthen state control over the country's energy reserves.

Luis Benavente, head of the polling firm Vox Populi, said voters are "fed up not so much with the economy as with politics, because of corruption."

"We have come to a debacle, such deep chaos that the country has to react," he told AFP.

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