Populist vs. Technocrat: Peruvians Choose Next President

Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori gestures from a car after casting her vote at a polling station in Lima, Peru, on Sunday. Janine Costa/Reuters

Peruvians voted in a presidential election on Sunday that pit right-wing populist Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of a jailed former president, against former World Bank economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, with the results still up for grabs.

Fujimori's lead over Kuczynski, 77, melted away in recent days, evoking memories of her close defeat to outgoing President Ollanta Humala in 2011.

In opinion polls by Ipsos and GfK on Saturday, Kuczynski pulled slightly ahead of Fujimori, though the two remained in a statistical dead heat. A poll by CPI seen by a source gave Fujimori a slight advantage with 50.9 percent of votes to Kuczynski's 49.1 percent..

The 41-year-old Fujimori, who would be Peru's first female president, has spent the last five years seeking to broaden her appeal beyond loyalists to her father, Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year sentence for graft and human rights abuses.

She kicked his staunchest defenders off her party's congressional ticket and stepped up campaigning in provinces she lost to left-leaning Humala in 2011. Still, many voters remain wary as some of Fujimori's new associates have become mired in fresh scandals.

"I voted for PPK because I don't think Keiko Fujimori would be the one governing, her father would be," said Luz Vite, 34, referring to Kuczynski by his commonly used initials.

While both candidates are fiscal conservatives who would maintain a free-market model in the resource-rich Andean economy, their styles and approaches differ widely.

The election pits the Fujimori family's brand of conservative populism against Kuczynski's elite background and stiff technocratic style, which has curbed his appeal in poor provinces and working-class districts.

Fujimori, who has repeatedly said democracy is not at risk, waged a more energetic campaign than her rival, whirling out regional dances in far-flung villages where she has promised to deliver tractors and portrayed her rival as out of touch with struggling Peruvians.

Peruvian presidential candidate Pedro Pablo Kuczynski addresses the media after casting his vote at a polling station in Lima, Peru, on Sunday. Paco Chuquiure/Reuters

She arrived at a local high school to cast her ballot standing in an open-roofed truck waving at supporters.

Many in rural provinces have fond memories of Fujimori's father, who built schools and hospitals and is credited with ending the violent Shining Path insurgency.

She has responded to the top voter concern, crime, with a hard-line stance that includes support for the death penalty and promises to lock up the most dangerous criminals in five new prisons she would build high in the Andes.

Asked why her running mate, who journalists claim gave them a tampered recording, was not at a traditional election-day breakfast on Sunday, Fujimori said she had opted for a family meal with her two daughters and American husband.

Fujimori defends her associates and says her party has been the victim of a smear campaign before Peru's fourth democratic election since her father's authoritarian government collapsed in 2000.