Fujimori scents a double victory

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The Independent Online

Latin America Correspondent

His critics accused him of being a ruthless authoritarian, a limelight- seeker, a warmonger and a vote-rigger. Whatever he is, most Peruvians like it.

In a landslide victory that surprised even many of his supporters, President Alberto Fujimori won a second five-year term on Sunday, crushing his closest rival, the former United Nations secretary-general Javier Perez de Cuellar.

Mr Fujimori, 56, the son of poor Japanese immigrants, had about 65 per cent of the vote to Mr Perez de Cuellar's 22 percent, according to partial official results, far above the 50 percent needed to avoid a second- round run-off. Mr Fujimori's New Majority-Change 90 coalition, which polls had suggested would lose its parliamentary majority, appeared to be heading for a surprise victory in the congressional elections with a possible 65 of the 120 seats in the single-chamber legislature.

Yesterday Mr Fujimori told supporters that he would continue with his key policies - ending a 15-year uprising by Shining Path guerrillas, slashing inflation and maintaining economic growth.

Mr Perez de Cuellar, 75, weary after a long campaign, conceded defeat without mentioning the President by name. "We acknowledge that the people have decided to reward the defeat of terrorism and of hyperinflation, even though they did not succeed in guaranteeing themselves a democratic future," he said. Referring to avote-rigging scandal, Mr Perez de Cuellar added: "We will never know how many people really voted for him."

A dozen people were arrested in the town of Huanuco after being found with thousands of pre-marked voting papersfavouring Mr Fujimori. Mr Perez de Cuellar and other candidates felt the would-be fraud was grave enough to merit postponement of the poll but the electoral board ruled that it was an isolated incident.

Some voters appeared to see the incident as an admirable example of Mr Fujimori's unofficial motto - "I get things done." He also appeared to have won votes as a result of the border conflict with Ecuador earlier this year - Ecuador accused him of starting it for electoral purposes - and perhaps for the public outburst against him late last year by his wife, Susana, who, barred from running against him as president, plans to file for divorce.

Mr Fujimori's victory has been the culmination of an astonishing rise for a man brought up in the shadow of hostile reaction to Japanese immigrants after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Previously a little-known agriculture engineer, he has now seen off the writer Mario Vargas Llosa - candidate in 1990 - and the well-known Mr Perez de Cuellar.