Ollanta Humala (48), a former Army officer and firebrand Leftwing candidate in Peru's presidential election, has snatched a razor-thin victory over Keiko Fujimori (36), daughter of the disgraced former President, Alberto Fujimori. With close to 85 per cent of the votes counted by Monday morning local time, Mr. Humala was said to have garnered 50.7 per cent of the votes while Ms. Fujimori had 49.29 per cent.
Ms. Fujimori, whose father is serving out a jail term over corruption and human rights abuses, refused to concede defeat outright, saying: “If the official results by the National Electoral Council confirm the difference of votes seen in the quick count then I will be the first one in recognising those results as I said from the beginning.”
A jubilant Mr. Humala said in a victory speech to supporters that “we will build a national consultation government”.
The two presidential campaigns had been blackened by mudslinging and “dirty tricks”, raising serious doubts on both candidates' ability to keep Peru on a stable path of growth with democracy.
At the heart of the electoral battle was the question of economic development, in particular the need to distribute wealth from the country's abundant mineral resources among the poorer sections of the population.
Mr. Humala, who lost a 2006 election runoff against outgoing President Alan Garcia after aligning himself closely with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, has subsequently toned down his rhetoric. His biggest campaign challenge this time around was in persuading voters that he would “share wealth more equally without frightening investors”. The results suggest he has succeeded. Mr. Humala was said to have won “overwhelming support from impoverished indigenous voters in Andean highlands who feel left out by Peru's mining-driven economic boom”.
Ms. Fujimori retained her popularity in the capital Lima, primarily among voters from the business community and the private sector. While many voters were said to view both her and Mr. Humala as “dangerous demagogues”, Ms. Fujimori's promise to drop a pledge to pardon her father appeared to boost her prospects.
However, now that victory is in his grasp, Mr. Humala will have to strike a balance with other Latin American heads of state. While he has repeatedly underscored the differences between his policy agenda and that of Mr. Chavez, he has also closely linked his image to that of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Yet Mr. Chavez and other left-of-centre leaders such as Bolivian President Evo Morales continue to play a key role in regional politics. They have already described Mr. Humala's victory as a “result of the people's struggle for dignity and sovereignty”.