Peru presidential vote tightens as Fujimori loses ground

Lima (AFP) - Peru's presidential race is tightening on the eve of Sunday's elections, with one poll showing a virtual tie between Keiko Fujimori, daughter of an ex-leader jailed for massacres, and former Wall Street banker Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

A divisive conservative figure, the 41-year-old Fujimori remains the favorite to win the runoff vote despite her father Alberto Fujimori's dark legacy.

But three last-minute polls showed her earlier estimated lead of more than five percentage points had narrowed.

Part of the large chunk of previously undecided voters appeared to be opting for Kuczynski, 77, a former economy minister and World Bank executive.

Pollster GfK said Friday its latest survey indicated Fujimori had 50.3 percent of the vote to 49.7 percent for Kuczynski.

"That is clearly a technical tie," GfK director Hernan Chaparro told foreign media in a news conference.

Another pollster, Datum, said Fujimori had 52.1 percent of the vote to 47.9 percent for Kuczynski, known as "PPK."

"PPK is gaining support from undecided voters," said Datum's director Urpi Torrado.

Pollster CPI on Thursday gave Fujimori 51.6 percent to 48.4 percent for Kuczynski.

CPI director Manuel Saavedra estimated some five percent of voters are still undecided. That is enough to swing the result against the populist conservative Fujimori.

- Crimes against humanity -

Fujimori is popular among poor rural communities but also has a high disapproval rating nationwide.

Many Peruvians associate Fujimori with her father's authoritarian rule. He is in jail for corruption and for crimes against humanity, for massacres of opponents he alleged were terrorists in the 1990s.

Some 23 million Peruvians are obliged to vote on Sunday in the election to replace outgoing leftist President Ollanta Humala.

Both candidates have vowed to fight crime and create jobs in the South American mineral exporter, one of the region's strongest economies.

"I want to be president of Peru to work for change... to build a great, prosperous country that is united and reconciled," Fujimori told supporters at her closing campaign rally.

"With the support of all of you, I will have the honor of becoming Peru's first woman president."

Kuczynski stressed his long experience as a financier and minister.

"We are going to hit the ground running," he told supporters of his Peruvians for Change party.

"We will not have to read the instruction manual, because we know what must be done."

- Corruption allegations -

The election campaigns have been stained by allegations of corruption and irregularities.

Ahead of the first round, opponents tried to get Keiko Fujimori excluded for alleged vote-buying.

The electoral board dismissed the case against her but expelled several other candidates.

A corruption scandal struck the secretary general of her Popular Force party, Joaquin Ramirez.

He resigned after media revealed the US Drug Enforcement Agency was investigating him over suspected money-laundering.

Kuczynski has vowed to stamp out corruption and violence by drug gangs, promising to stop Peru becoming a "narco-state."

Fujimori criticized him as an ally of big business, out of touch with ordinary citizens.

"For many people, it is surprising that she enjoys such popularity. But many of Keiko's supporters remember her father's tough line on terrorism and think that she can be similarly tough on crime," Maria Luisa Puig, an analyst at the Eurasia group consultancy, told AFP.

"Peruvian elections are always quite unpredictable."

A poll by Ipsos a week ahead of the vote had given Fujimori a lead of 5.3 percentage points.

Since then, she has faced a tough televised debate with Kuczynski and a mass rally against her in Lima on May 31.

The third-place candidate from the first round, leftist Veronika Mendoza, threw her support behind Kuczynski.

Both runoff candidates are seen as pro-market in their policy plans to further Peru's economic growth.

The Lima stock exchange closed 2.2 percent higher on Friday.

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