While 23mn Peruvians went to the polls June 5, it now appears that citizens living abroad will have the final say as to who will be the country's next president, as fewer than 50,000 votes separated the two candidates on Tuesday.

Former cabinet chief and banker Pedro-Pablo Kuczynski had 50.14% of the vote compared to 49.86% for his rival, former congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, with 97.1% of the vote counted.

On Monday Kuczynski had a 0.56% lead.

With the bulk of votes counted in the country's remote rural areas, Peru's electoral board Onpe has said it has yet to tally votes cast by up to 900,000 Peruvians abroad.

Kuczynski's Peruanos por el Kambio movement claims it has an edge as Kuczynski, the 77-year-old former president of CS First Boston and Princeton University MBA graduate, spent a week in the US in April canvassing some of the 2mn Peruvians who sought refuge in the US and Europe from terrorism and economic crises in the 1980s.

Fujimori's Fuerza Popular party, meanwhile, is confident it will repeat the result of the first round of the elections in April, when she garnered the majority of the votes cast overseas. Fujimori, 41, holds an MBA from Columbia University, and like Kuczynski, is married to an American.

Both candidates, who have challenged 1.5% of the ballots cast, said they will await a 100% official vote count which the electoral board warns may not be finished until the weekend.

Analysts expressed their concern that the narrow outcome will weaken the next presidency following a rancorous campaign riddled with mutual accusations.

Kuczynski's party faces an uphill battle passing legislation with just 18 seats in the 130-member congress, compared with 73 for Fuerza Popular, while Fujimori will have to contend with a vociferous youth movement that has portrayed her as a symbol of continuity of the corruption and human rights abuses that marred the government of her father, jailed former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000).

Slowing economic growth, a rising crime rate and persistent poverty that has spawned an underground economy require the next government to take "immediate measures," according to political analyst Fernando Tuesta. Peru is the world's third largest copper,zinc and tin miner.

"Whatever the outcome, they're going to have to patch things up," Tuesta said. "The next president receives a country that is divided."

The election process, Peru's ninth since democracy was restored in 1980 following a 12-year military regime, was overshadowed by a lack of clarity regarding campaign donations and the exclusion of several candidates on technicalities, according to international observers.

Congress announced it will investigate Fuerza Popular's general secretary and principal financier Joaquín Ramírez regarding alleged undeclared properties abroad. Ramírez, who is also being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration over money laundering allegations, denies any wrongdoing.

"The election campaign highlighted the lack of financial transparency and limitations for electoral authorities to monitor campaign inflows and expenses by political organizations, and to impose effective sanctions," an EU delegation said in a statement. "The EU observation mission recommends a profound electoral reform to strengthen the democratic process."


Source: BNamericas