Jailed ex-president's daughter favorite to lead Peru

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Lima (AFP) - Peruvians vote Sunday on whether Keiko Fujimori, daughter of an ex-president jailed for massacres, will be their new leader.

Polls show Fujimori, 41, is favored to win the runoff against former Wall Street banker Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, 77.

Many Peruvians mistrust Keiko Fujimori because her father Alberto is in jail for corruption and massacres of leftist rebels.

But others love her, remembering how Alberto Fujimori boosted the economy and stamped out the Shining Path insurgent group.

"Peruvian elections are always quite unpredictable. There are many undecided voters," said analyst Maria Luisa Puig of the Eurasia Group consultancy.

"But Keiko Fujimori right now has an advantage over Pedro Pablo Kuczynski because of the support she has from poorer voters," Puig told AFP.

Both candidates are right of center economic liberals. They have promised to fight crime, create jobs and put the dark past of Peru's 1980-2000 civil conflict behind them.

"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 late Thursday.

"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 banker and former economy 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."

- Fight crime, defend poor -

Security has been a major election issue. Many voters say they are fed up with violence blamed on drug gangs.

"I know that she will be tough. She said so and I trust her," said one of Fujimori's supporters, Miguel Zevallos, at a campaign rally.

"I don't believe everything they say about her. She will fight and she will look after poor people."

Another voter, Lima taxi driver Mario Armando Callupe, 27, said he would vote for Kuczynski.

"He is very well prepared for the job and he proved it when he was economy minister. He is a big brain," Callupe said.

"Keiko Fujimori seems to me like a woman with a lot of strength and spirit who wants to do a good job. But she lacks experience."

A survey published on Thursday by pollster CPI gave Fujimori nearly 52 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Kuczynski.

Previous polls gave Fujimori a wider lead. The latest poll followed a tough televised debate between the candidates and a big street rally against Fujimori.

"For many people it is surprising that she enjoys such popularity," said Puig.

"But many of Keiko's supporters remember her father's tough line on terrorism and think that she can be similarly tough on crime."

- 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.

As the second round approached, a fresh corruption scandal struck the secretary general of her Fuerza Popular party, Joaquin Ramirez.

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

Kuczynski seized on the scandal and vowed to end "the narco-state."

Peru's economy is seen as stronger than most of its Latin American neighbors. The country is a big exporter of copper, gold and other minerals.

But growth has declined during the term of outgoing President Ollanta Humala.

The International Monetary Fund forecasts it will grow by 3.7 percent this year.

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