Humala takes lead in Peru elections

A leftist former army officer who once led a military rebellion in hopes of toppling Peru’s president appeared headed for the nation’s top job Sunday — this time through the ballot box.

Eleven years ago, Ollanta Humala tried ousting President Alberto Fujimori. On Sunday, early results showed it was Fujimori’s daughter Keiko he was likely to beat by a narrow margin in one of the country’s most divisive elections.

With 78 percent of the ballots counted, the National Election Office said Humala had received 50.1 percent of the vote, versus Keiko Fujimori’s 49.9 percent.

Despite the razor thing margin shown by the early results, three exit polls and a quick-count by the election watch-dog group Transparencia gave the victory to Humala. Analysts expect his lead to widen as ballots from rural areas come in.

Although neither candidate declared victory, as soon as news of the exit poll results spread, crowds at Humala’s campaign headquarters broke out into a chorus of “Yes we could!”

The bitter race pitted Humala, who cast himself as a soft-left nationalist, against Fujimori, a right-wing populist and former legislator.

Humala’s prior ties to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, and Fujimori’s role as the standard-bearer for her jailed father, made it one of the most polarized elections in recent memory.

If Humala’s lead holds, experts said Humala needs to move quickly by naming centrists to his cabinet to prove that he is the reformed moderate he claims to be, said Steven Levitsky, a professor of government at Harvard and a visiting professor at the Catholic University in Peru.

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