Son of Jewish immigrant wins Peruvian presidency race
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Son of Jewish immigrant wins Peruvian presidency race

Ex-Wall Street banker Pedro Pablo Kuczynski claims victory, but controversial rival says it’s not over till the last vote is counted

Presidential candidate for the "Peruanos por el Kambio" party Pedro Pablo Kuczynski celebrates the preliminary results from the runoff elections, on June 5, 2016 in Lima. (AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BERNETTI)
Presidential candidate for the "Peruanos por el Kambio" party Pedro Pablo Kuczynski celebrates the preliminary results from the runoff elections, on June 5, 2016 in Lima. (AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BERNETTI)

Former Wall Street banker Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s camp claimed victory Tuesday in Peru’s photo-finish presidential election, but controversial rival Keiko Fujimori said it’s not over till the last vote is counted.

With more than 96 percent of the ballots in from Sunday’s polls, the Oxford-trained economist known as “PPK” had the edge in the race to lead one of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies: 50.15 percent of the vote to 49.85 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) continued tallying 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 by about 100,000 votes.”

Electoral officials said it could take until Thursday to deliver a final result.

Keiko Fujimori of the “Fuerza Popular” party reacts during a brief appearance in front of supporters at her party's headquarters in a local hotel as news arrives that the polls have turned against her, in favor of her rival Pedro Pablo Kuzcynski (AFP PHOTO / LUKA GONZALES)
Keiko Fujimori of the “Fuerza Popular” party reacts during a brief appearance in front of supporters at her party’s headquarters in a local hotel as news arrives that the polls have turned against her, in favor of her rival Pedro Pablo Kuzcynski (AFP PHOTO / LUKA GONZALES)

Kuczynski, 77, has said he won’t declare victory until the official result 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.

Fujimori, 41, spent much of Monday hunkered down in her campaign headquarters.

As she left, she rolled down her car window to flash a thumbs-up sign and say she wasn’t throwing in the towel.

“We’re cautiously waiting,” she said with a smile.

Her campaign says it is betting she will win heavily in remote areas still sending in their results, where she tends to do better than Kuczynski thanks in part 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 the leftist rebel group Shining Path 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.

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 who fled the Nazis in 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.

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 had already won a majority in the congress in a 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 continent over the past decade has weakened, with major setbacks in Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela.

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