Peruvians on Edge As |Vote Count Drags On

     LIMA, Peru (AP) — Economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski clung to a thin lead over the daughter of a jailed former president early Wednesday as the count from Peru’s presidential election dragged on, straining nerves in a nation divided after a polarizing campaign.
     With tallies from 98.4 percent of polling stations counted, Kuczynski had 50.1 percent of the votes compared with 49.9 percent for Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former strongman Alberto Fujimori. The total number of votes separating them was about 44,000.
     While two quick counts showed Kuczynski prevailing in Sunday’s election, still being counted are the ballots cast by 885,000 Peruvians eligible to vote abroad, the last of which are expected to arrive in Peru on Wednesday. Peruvians living abroad, the majority in the United States, turned out massively for Fujimori in the 2011 election but are expected to be more split 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.
     “Tranquility and serenity,” Kuczynski urged on Tuesday, amid strained nerves among his supporters. “We have to wait for the final verdict. We’re almost there.”
     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 are 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.
     If Kuczynski holds onto his lead, it would be a stunning turnaround. Fujimori won April’s first round of voting by more than 20 points in a field of 10 candidates and consistently led Kuczynski in polls before Sunday’s runoff.
     Kuczynski, 77, managed to climb back in the race by attacking his younger rival as a risk to Peru’s young democracy.
     Playing on memories of Alberto Fujimori’s well-known ties to corruption, organized crime and death squads, for which he’s serving a 25-year prison sentence, he seized on string of scandals that hobbled Fujimori in the final stretch.
     PPK, as Kuczynski is almost universally known in Peru, 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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     Associated Press writer Alan Clendenning in Madrid contributed to this report.
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     Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
     

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