By Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino
LIMA (Reuters) – Peru’s presidential race tightened ahead of Sunday’s vote, with polls showing waning support for longtime front-runner Keiko Fujimori, daughter of a jailed former president.
Fujimori, 41, who enjoyed a 5 percentage point lead less than a week ago, is now in a statistical tie with former World Bank economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, according to three surveys taken since Tuesday.
Analysts from pollsters GfK and Datum said voters who had been undecided were now favoring Kuczynski.
Both candidates studied in the United States and would maintain Peru’s free-market economic model. They defeated a leftist candidate in a first-round vote in April as left-wing politics fall out of favor in much of Latin America.
Fujimori won 50.3 percent of valid votes in a mock voting exercise conducted by GfK on Wednesday and Thursday, compared with Kuczynski’s 49.7 percent. The survey, seen by Reuters on Thursday but not made public in Peru, had a 2.3 point margin of error.
The conservative Fujimori ended her campaign by dancing in front of thousands of orange-clad fans on the outskirts of Lima on Thursday night. She told voters that Kuczynski did not know their country as well as she did and would not be tough enough on crime.
“My opponent developed his plan from his comfortable office,” she said at her final rally. “We traveled to every single region, every province.”
Kuczynski, 77, held a more subdued closing event in the southern city of Arequipa as supporters chanted “Democracy yes! Dictatorship no!” in reference to Fujimori’s father Alberto, who governed Peru from 1990 until 2000 and is now in jail for corruption and human rights abuses.
Fujimori, whose brand of right-wing populism appeals to poor voters, has pledged to respect democracy and distanced herself from her father since losing the 2011 election. Some voters still support the elder Fujimori, however, and say measures like shutting Congress were necessary to end the Maoist Shining Path insurgency.
Kuczynski, a former prime minister, even endorsed Fujimori five years ago over outgoing President Ollanta Humala, a one-time leftist who governed moderately. Earlier this week, Kuczynski canceled plans to take part in an anti-Fujimori rally that was attended by tens of thousands in downtown Lima.
Alfredo Torres of pollster Ipsos said that was politically the right call as the majority of residents of Lima, who will probably decide the election, disapproved of the protests.
Fujimori won 51.6 percent of valid votes in a mock voting exercise conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday by CPI, compared with Kuczynski’s 48.4 percent. CPI’s survey had a 2.3 point margin of error. A CPI poll conducted May 26 and 27 gave Fujimori 54.8 percent of valid votes.
A poll by Datum had similar results.
“We are reaching a very Peruvian finale to this election, with uncertainty over who is going to win,” said political analyst Fernando Tuesta of Lima’s Catholic University. “Anything can happen.”
(Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Lisa Von Ahn)