Left-winger Ollanta Humala wins Peru election

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The Independent US

Left-wing former army commander Ollanta Humala won Peru's presidential election and vowed the poor will share in the country's new wealth.

Humala claimed victory last night as results from 89 per cent of ballot boxes gave him a narrow but growing lead of more than 2.7 percentage points over right-wing politician Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori.

Exit polls and quick counts from yesterday's election put Humala clearly ahead and his lead in the official returns was expected to grow as more votes came in from poor, rural areas.

"We want to install a government of national unity," Humala, 48, told thousands of cheering supporters after a bruising race that brought back bitter memories of Peru's chaotic past.

Peru, one of the world's fastest-growing economies over the past decade, is a major metals exporter but a third of its people are stuck in poverty and Humala campaigned on promises to spread around more of the country's new wealth.

"We want economic growth with social inclusion," he said at a rally in downtown Lima that stretched into the early hours of Monday. "We can build a more just Peru for everybody."

Thousands of followers danced in jubilation, chanting "Humala Presidente! and "Fujimori never again."

After narrowly losing the 2006 presidential election, Humala toned down his more radical anti-capitalist policies to try to win over centrist voters.

He vowed to run a balanced budget, bring experienced technocrats into his government and respect foreign investors who plan to spend $40 billion on mining and oil projects in Peru in the next decade. He vows to give the a poor a greater share of natural resource wealth and end social conflicts.

Finance Minister Ismael Benavides told Reuters late yesterday that the government had a "contingency plan" ready to face a sharp market sell-off, but he gave no firm details.

Humala's chief economics adviser, Felix Jimenez, who wrote his campaign platform and is seen as a possible central bank chief, sought to reassure markets, saying the government and central bank both had instruments to fend off a rout.

"Our economic proposals are totally sensible: to maintain macroeconomic equilibrium, consolidate growth and create conditions for private domestic and foreign investment growth," he told Reuters.

It was not immediately clear when Humala would start to name his cabinet.

Fujimori, 36, was the favorite of investors but many voted against her because her father is serving a 25-year prison sentence for corruption and using death squads to crack down on suspected leftists when he was Peru's president in the 1990s.

Humala, who as an army commander led an unsuccessful revolt against the elder Fujimori in 2000, has hammered his rival for working in her father's authoritarian government.

Fujimori warned Humala could wreck Peru's economy by dismantling the free-market reforms begun by her father. Those reforms helped set the stage for unprecedented growth in the past decade as Peru left behind the hyperinflation and guerrilla wars of the 1980s and '90s.

Critics say Humala is still a hard-liner at heart who will take over private firms and try to change the constitution to allow himself to run for consecutive terms like his one-time mentor, Venezuela's firebrand leftist leader Hugo Chavez.

"Humala has four different manifestoes. He doesn't convince me and represents a return to militarism of the past," said 35-year-old security guard Julio Cauche.