Keiko Fujimori, the conservative daughter of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori, led the first round of Peru’s presidential election on Sunday but she failed to win more than half of the votes and will face a run-off in June, three exit polls showed.
The close race for second place and a spot in the run-off was between Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a center-right former World Bank economist, and leftist candidate Veronika Mendoza.
Fujimori, a U.S.-educated former congresswoman, needed 50 percent to win power in the first round but exit polls showed her with support at below 40 percent.
She is vulnerable in the run-off because voters opposed to her father’s authoritarian rule in the 1990s are likely to rally behind her rival.
The Ipsos polling firm said an unofficial quick count of ballots showed Fujimori had 39.1 percent support with Kuczynski on 21.9 percent and Mendoza on 18.6 percent. But it had not yet counted sample ballots from some rural areas, where Mendoza and Fujimori have stronger support than Kuczynski.
Exit polls showed Kuczynski and Mendoza were even closer.
Support for Fujimori, 40, slipped after tens of thousands protested against her on April 5, 24 years after her father shut Congress with the support of the army.
A runoff between Fujimori and the 77-year-old Kuczynski would likely ensure Peru’s free-market economic model remains intact. Kuczynski is seen as Wall Street’s preferred candidate.
Mendoza wants to limit Peru’s crucial mining industry and her late surge in opinion polls spooked investors.
Peru is on track to become the world’s No. 2 copper producer.
Rising crime was a central campaign issue and many Peruvians question why poverty persists with such vast mineral wealth.
Kuczynski’s supporters danced in the streets with his guinea pig mascot after the exit polls were reported but it was not yet clear whether he had secured a run-off place.
Mendoza, 35, thanked her supporters from her home city of Cuzco, once the capital of the Incan empire. “We’ve shown that we can do politics differently,” she said.
Partial official results were expected later on Sunday and the country’s electoral body said it would finish counting on Monday.
A recent Ipsos poll showed Kuczynski would likely beat Fujimori in a second-round election while Mendoza was seen in a statistical tie with Fujimori. (Courtesy Reuters)