The left-wing former army officer Ollanta Humala has won Peru's bitterly contested presidential elections after his hard-right rival Keiko Fujimori conceded defeat.
With over 90 per cent of the 19 million votes counted yesterday, Mr Humala had a lead of more than 2.7 percentage points over Ms Fujimori, the daughter of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori. The remaining uncounted votes, largely from remote areas favouring Mr Humala, were expected to slightly stretch that lead. Announcing his victory, Mr Humala vowed the poor would share in the country's new wealth. "We want to install a government of national unity," Mr Humala, 48, told thousands of cheering supporters.
The elections, which passed off without significant allegations of fraud, mark the first time Peru has democratically chosen a left-wing government. But months of fierce campaigning have left the country deeply polarised. The closing weeks saw Mr Humala tacking furiously towards the centre and promising to preserve Peru's booming free market economy, though some doubt his sincerity. He has consistently criticised the failure of policy-makers in Lima to address the needs of communities in the Andes and Amazon. "You cannot talk about Peru progressing when there are still so many Peruvians in poverty," he told a crowd in the capital yesterday morning.
"We will correct this, making sure that economic growth does not depend on trickle-down but on real policies that resolve the problem."
Key pledges include overhauling Peru's ramshackle public education system, raising the minimum wage to £160 a month, introducing a state pension for the poor and taxing the "excess profits" of mining companies. He is also expected to sign legislation that could give indigenous communities a veto over oil and gas drilling and mining on their lands.
Ms Fujimori had a slight lead until the final days of the campaign, which were dominated by allegations surrounding the forced sterilisation of more than 300,000 poverty-stricken women during her father's presidency. Ms Fujimori's vice-presidential candidate, Rafael Rey, provoked outrage when he said that the sterilisations, often carried out during other operations, had been "without the consent" rather than "against the will" of the victims.
The election results were greeted with calls for reconciliation. But vice-president elect Omar Chehade struck a different tone, promising: "There will be no persecution but neither will we turn a blind eye to corruption." He said Mr Fujimori, serving a 25-year sentence for embezzlement and ordering killings, would probably be transferred from his personal jail to a regular prison.
Mr Humala's party is expected to form a working alliance with Alejandro Toledo, who came in fourth in the first round of voting.
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