Peruvians are voting in a tightly contested presidential race led by a nationalist vowing “a revolution to give Peru’s riches to the poor.” Opinion polls gave Ollanta Humala a slight lead over two other main candidates but it is likely no-one will get the more than 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a May runoff. Humala has rallied support among the poor majority who say they have yet to benefit from strong economic growth since 2002.
Lourdes Flores, a 46-year-old market-friendly conservative, topped polls only months ago. The former congresswoman hopes to become Peru’s first woman president. Also in the running is Alan Garcia, whose time in office between 1985 and 1990 was marked by economic turmoil and a surge in violence by the Shining Path rebels. Out of a total population of 27 million, 16 million Peruvians are registered to vote. Yesterday the outgoing President Alejandro Toledo urged them to take part in the ballot to choose his successor and the 120 members of Congress. Voting is compulsory and the threat of a 40 euro fine may assure a decent turnout. Toledo told television viewers to be sure whoever they voted for did not “represent the authoritarianism and instability of the past,” an apparent reference to Humala.