Peru may have to wait a while before knowing who its next president is, as Pedro Pablo Kuczynski had a 0.56% lead on Monday over Keiko Fujimori, with 94.2% of Sunday's runoff elections counted, while both candidates are challenging a chunk of the ballots cast.

Former cabinet chief and banker Kuczynski had 50.28% of the vote compared to 49.72% for former congresswoman Fujimori, according to Peru's electoral board Onpe. The gap has dwindled since exit polls gave Kuczynski a margin of as much as 1.5%.

Both candidates have reacted cautiously, saying they will await a 100% official vote count even as two pollsters declared Kuczynski the winner. Fujimori's Fuerza Popular party is counting on votes trickling in from remote rural regions and 900,000 from abroad to push her into first place.

"We haven't won yet," Kuczynski told several thousand supporters Sunday night outside his party headquarters. "We have to wait for the official results."

To add to the suspense, both Fuerza Popular and Kuczynski's Peruanos para el Kambio have challenged 1.5% of the 23mn ballots cast.

Whatever the outcome, Fujimori's party will be left scratching their heads at the close race, as polls gave her as much as a 10 percentage point lead a week ago. Pollsters were predicting a tight race by the end of the week following a student march evoking the human rights abuses and corruption that marred the government of her father, jailed former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000).

Polling firm Ipsos Apoyo's Alfredo Torres attributed Kuczynski's surge to a scathing anti-Fujimori campaign in social media, in addition to money-laundering investigations into Fuerza Popular members and public gestures of support for Kuczynski from key political figures such as Verónika Mendoza, whose left-leaning Frente Amplio movement gained 20 seats in congress.

Both parties made conciliatory remarks after a particularly bitter campaign, pledging to work with each other and the rest of the opposition to jump-start the economy, battle a crime wave and invest in public services such as health, education and potable water for Peru's 10mn impoverished residents. Peru is the world's third-largest copper, zinc and tin producer.

"One can't deny reality. There is a strong anti-Fujimori movement in Peru," Vladimiro Huaroc, a senior Fujimori advisor, told reporters in Lima on Monday. "But we have received 50% backing, and we will work with the other political forces as long as it is in the interests of the Peruvians we represent."

Kuczynski's party is conscious of the fact that, if it wins, it will have an uphill battle passing legislation with just 18 seats in the 130-member congress compared with 73 for Fuerza Popular, Kuczynski's running mate Martín Vizcarra said. Peruvian stocks, bonds and currency were little changed Monday as both candidates are perceived as investor-friendly by financial markets.

"The key point is that regardless of who wins, both are likely to continue with the current government's relatively market-friendly economic policy," Capital Economics analyst Adam Collins wrote in a report.


Source: BNamericas