Ex-Wall Street honcho Kuczynski banks on win in Peru

Lima (AFP) - Ex-Wall Street banker Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's camp claimed victory Tuesday in Peru's photo-finish presidential election, but polarizing rival Keiko Fujimori said it's not over till the last vote is counted.

With more than 97 percent of the ballots in from Sunday's runoff, the Oxford-trained economist known as "PPK" had the edge in the race to lead one of Latin America's fastest-growing economies: 50.14 percent of the vote to 49.86 percent for Fujimori, the daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori.

Kuczynski's running mate, Martin Vizcarra, declared victory.

"This result is irreversible," he told RPP TV, as the national elections office ONPE tallied the last ballots from remote areas and overseas.

"Even if the ONPE hasn't filled in the missing numbers, our people on the ground have copies of the result sheets and that enables us to calculate that PPK will win."

With less than 50,000 votes separating the candidates, electoral officials said it could take until Thursday to deliver a final result.

Bad weather has grounded flights meant to deliver results from the Amazon jungle region, and some have had to be sent by boat.

Kuczynski, 77, has said he won't declare victory until the official verdict is in.

But he couldn't resist stepping out on the balcony of his house in an upscale Lima neighborhood Monday and indulging in a few dance moves alongside his wife.

On Tuesday, he headed to a local country club, telling reporters: "We're optimistic, getting our exercise."

- Hunkering down -

Fujimori, 41, was hunkered down in her campaign headquarters for a second straight day.

"We're cautiously waiting," she said Monday night with a smile and a thumbs-up sign.

Her campaign is hoping she will win heavily in remote areas still sending in their results thanks to her father's pull with poor rural voters.

Some Peruvians fondly remember Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) for his populist streak, his ruthless campaign to wipe out leftist Shining Path rebels and his management of a strong economy.

But his legacy has also been heavy baggage for his daughter. His violent decade in office ultimately landed him in prison for 25 years for massacres carried out by an army death squad.

- Cocaine and crime -

Both candidates are right-leaning, US-educated politicians from immigrant families.

They vowed to fight crime and create jobs in the nation of 31 million people, a major source of gold, copper -- and cocaine.

Famed for its ancient Incan ruins high in the Andes mountains and its fusion-fueled cuisine, symbolized by the refreshing raw fish dish ceviche, Peru has been one of Latin America's best-performing economies.

But growth slowed under outgoing leftist President Ollanta Humala, from 6.5 percent when he took office in 2011 to 3.3 percent last year.

Kuczynski, son of a Jewish doctor from Germany, studied at Oxford and Princeton.

His American wife is a cousin of Hollywood actress Jessica Lange.

He cut an eccentric figure on the campaign trail, dancing and playing folk music on the flute.

A former economy minister, he has a long career in business and finance.

Fujimori, whose father is the child of Japanese immigrants, was aiming to become Peru's first woman president. Many voters hoped she would be tough like her father in fighting violent crime.

- Anti-Fujimori vote -

Fujimori's side was hit by allegations of corruption and irregularities that damaged her in the days before the vote.

Analysts said Kuczynski and his Peruvians For Change party benefited from a surge of "anti-fujimorismo."

But Fujimori's side already won a majority in Congress in the first-round vote in April.

The Peruvian vote reflected a broader shift to the right in Latin American politics.

A wave of leftist governments that governed across the region over the past decade has weakened, with major setbacks in Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela.