An ex-army officer and popular leftist candidate survived a round in Perú's presidential election to force a runoff in June – and is set to face Keiko Fujimori, the right-wing daughter of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori.
Ollanta Humala and Fujimori edged-out three more moderate candidates who canceled each other out in Sunday's election. The outcome reflects the disarray that has plagued Peruvian politics since Fujimori's 1990 emergence from obscurity.
Humala – the lone candidate advocating a greater state role in the economy to provide poor Peruvians with a greater share of the country's mining riches – will face Fujimori in the June 5 runoff.
The ex-army lieutenant colonel also won the first round in Perú's 2006 presidential vote but was defeated 53 percent to 47 percent by Alan García in a runoff widely seen as a rebuff to Hugo Chávez, who had openly backed him.
This time, Humala distanced himself from the leftist Venezuelan president, while Fujimori backed away from vows to pardon her father she made two years ago when he was convicted of approving death squad killings and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa had called the Humala-Fujimori runoff option "a choice between AIDS and terminal cancer," given perceptions of both candidate's anti-democratic tendencies.
The official vote count was slow, but complete unofficial results provided by nonprofit electoral watchdog Transparencia gave Humala 31.7 percent — well short of the simple majority needed to win outright.
Keiko Fujimori — whose father Peruvians alternately esteem and revile — got 23.3 percent, trailed by Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a 72-year-old former World Bank economist and investment banker, with 18.3 percent.
In fourth was Alejandro Toledo, Peru's president from 2001-2006, with 15.9 percent. Former Lima Mayor Luis Castañeda was fifth with 9.9 percent.
Pre-election polls had indicated either Toledo or Castañeda would defeat Humala in a second round while Kuczynski and Fujimori would have a harder time.
George Mason University political scientist Jo-Marie Burt said Sunday's outcome puts Perú on "a really terrible road and I think it shows how weak the whole political system really is." Politics in this resource-rich Andean nation have been chaotic since its traditional parties were unable to cope with civil war and hyperinflation in the late 1980s and all but dissolved.
"There is a lot to admire about Perú but its political class is not among its strongest assets," said Michael Shifter, president of the nonpartisan Inter-American Dialogue think tank. "It is a country of paradoxes and contradictions — impressively robust growth but precarious politics. In this election, the extremes came out on top."
"There was a chance to embrace a moderate, middle ground, but that opportunity slipped away," he said.
Humala has spooked foreign investors by promising to divert natural gas exports to the domestic market and obtain greater royalties from foreign investors in Perú's mineral wealth. He called his victory proof that Peruvians "want a great transformation."
Perú is a top exporter of copper, gold and silver, commodities whose rising prices have helped fuel economic growth averaging 7 percent during García's tenure. But it is a growth that has hardly trickled down to the poor.
Eliminated candidate Toledo said voters simply "expressed their rage ... at having economic growth without the distribution of the benefits of that growth."
Keiko Fujimori constantly invoked her father during the campaign, running on his legacy of delivering essential services to Perú's forgotten backwater and of being tough on crime. It's a potent message in a nation 30 million where one in three live on less than $3 a day and lack running water, and the murder rate doubled under García.
During her victory speech from the terrace of a downtown hotel, jubilant supporters changed "Chino. Chino. Chino," her father's popular nickname.
She thanked him and sought to dispel concerns of a return to authoritarian rule: "We are going to work my dear friends with absolute respect for democracy, press freedom, human rights and the rule of law."
Perú ranks 13th out of 17 countries in the region in citizen access to social services, according to the World Bank. In the country's rural highlands, where both Humala and Fujimori ran strongly, 66 percent of Peruvians live in poverty, half in extreme poverty, it says.
Kuczynski, a German immigrant's son who was economics and prime minister under Toledo, climbed into contention in the campaign's final weeks. But the perception of him as the candidate of big foreign capital hurt him.
Toledo had led in the polls until late March, when Humala overtook him. His voters also defected to Kuczynski.
Humala, 48, made promises similar to those of Keiko Fujimori: free nursery school and public education, state-funded school breakfasts and lunches, a big boost in the minimum wage, and pensions for all beginning at age 65.
He says he would respect international treaties and contracts, but many Peruvians don't believe him.
Humala, who launched a bloodless, short-lived revolt against Alberto Fujimori just before the latter fled into exile in 2000, advocates rewriting the constitution, as Chávez and his leftist allies in Bolivia and Ecuador have done.
He says it will make it easier to enact reforms, as Chávez and the Bolivian and Ecuadorean leaders have.
Fujimori has a rock-solid constituency thanks to her father's defeat of the Maoist-inspired Shining Path insurgency, taming of hyperinflation in the 1990s and social agenda.
"Because of him we are free. Because of him we're at peace," said Luz Montesino, a 60-year-old bakery owner who voted at a school built during his presidency.
Like other Fujimori voters, she was not bothered by the dark, authoritarian side of the Fujimori legacy — including shutting down of Congress in 1992.
Nor do Keiko Fujimori backers seem concerned by critics' fears Keiko would pardon her father, and he'll call the shots in her presidency.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press. AP writers Carla Salazar and Franklin Briceño contributed to this report.