Peru’s presidential contest remains in flux on eve of vote

By Carla Samon Ros

Lima, Apr 9 (EFE).- The latest polls show the top six candidates in the Peruvian presidential election separated by only 4 percent, meaning that a second round of voting in June is all but certain.

After leading the polls for months, center-left former lawmaker Yohny Lescano has faltered, yet he still seems likely to finish in the top two on Sunday.

But who will join the 62-year-old in qualifying for the runoff remains anybody’s guess.

The hopefuls include an economist who has been associated with controversial figures, the indicted daughter of disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori, a former professional soccer player and a business mogul who owes millions of dollars in back taxes.

Hernando De Soto, 79, is making his first run for office after four decades in public life. He has been head of the central bank and an adviser to Fujimori and another president, Alan Garcia, who took his own life to avoid arrest in a corruption case.

Known internationally for his doctrinaire free-market ideas, De Soto has also worked with foreign leaders such as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gadhafi of Libya.

In the 2011 and 2016 elections, he supported Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the jailed Alberto, who is running again this year despite having spent a year in preventive custody herself on corruption allegations.

The third-place finisher in 2016, leftist former congresswoman Veronika Mendoza, has climbed in the polls recently on the strength of a platform that calls for a second agrarian reform – the first was more than 50 years ago – and nationalization of Peru’s natural gas.

Fluent in Quechua, the country’s main indigenous language, Mendoza, 40, advocates legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage.

George Forsyth, formerly the goalkeeper for popular soccer club Alianza Lima, has gone from being the favorite at the start of the race to just one of the contenders.

The 38-year-old son of a diplomat and a Chilean beauty queen, Forysth has flitted from party to party across the ideological spectrum. His only experience of public office is a stint as mayor of the Lima borough of La Victoria.

Now the standard-bearer of a conservative, evangelical party, Forsyth has been accused by his ex-wife, actress Vanessa Terkes, of psychological abuse during their marriage of eight months.

Right-wing businessman Rafael Lopez Aliaga surged in the polls for a time only to plummet after he performed badly in the televised presidential debate.

Nicknamed “Tio (uncle) Porki” for his plump physique and jovial demeanor, Lopez has likewise been hurt by revelations of business ties to financier George Soros – a bogeyman for the right worldwide – and his $8.3 million tax debt.

The candidate is an acknowledged member of the Catholic order Opus Dei who says he has practiced both celibacy and self-flagellation for 40 years. So it’s no surprise that he bitterly opposes legal abortion and marriage equality.

In the last few weeks, a 51-year-old schoolteacher and union leader has come out of nowhere to jostle for position with the familiar faces.

Pedro Castillo, sporting the traditional straw hat of his native Cajamarca region, combines radical positions on economic questions with a conservative stance toward social issues.

He wants to see Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal replaced with a panel of judges “elected by the people” and says that as president, he would close Congress if lawmakers rejected his program. EFE csr/dr

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