Patience wears thin as Peru vote count drags on

Joy Cantos - Associated Press

LIMA — Patience was wearing thin as ballots in Peru's presidential election continued to trickle in on yesterday, three days after a contest whose results remained too close to call.

Aides to front-runner Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on yesterday demanded that Peru's top electoral authority speed up the counting. Dozens of supporters of his rival Keiko Fujimori held a demonstration late Tuesday to denounce what they said is fraud, even though neither she nor her aides have expressed similar concerns.

Electoral officials said they hope to wrap up their work on Thursday when the last ballots cast at embassies abroad arrive in Lima.

Most experts said it will be nearly impossible for Fujimori to make up the 41,000 vote difference separating her from Kuczynski, an economist. With 98.5 percent of polling stations counted, Kuczynski had 50.1 percent compared to the 49.9 percent for Fujimori, the daughter of a jailed former president.

Still being counted were the ballots cast by an estimated 885,000 Peruvians eligible to vote abroad. Peruvians living outside the South American country, most of them in the United States, turned out massively for Fujimori in the 2011 election but were expected to be more divided this time around.

About 1,200 handwritten tallies representing up to 360,000 votes were being disputed and were sent to a special electoral board for review, Mariano Cucho, the head of Peru's electoral authority, told RPP Radio on Tuesday.

Both candidates have remained largely silent while awaiting final results of Peru's tightest presidential race since 1962, a contest that ended in a military coup.

Regardless of who wins, half of voters are bound to be disappointed, making it harder for the next president to govern. Aides in both campaigns were jockeying for positions in an eventual alliance in congress, where Fujimori's Popular Force won a solid majority of 73 of 130 seats. Kuczynski's fledgling movement will have just 18, fewer than the country's main leftist alliance.

The 77-year-old Kuczynski was once far behind, but rose by reminding voters of Alberto Fujimori's ties to the corruption, organized crime and death squads for which he's serving a 25-year prison sentence.

Kuczynski also benefited from a last-minute endorsement by the third-place finisher in the first round of voting, leftist congresswoman Veronika Mendoza.


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