March 19, 2006

Nationalist retakes lead in Peru presidential poll

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - Ex-army nationalist Ollanta Humala,
campaigning to restrict foreign investment in Peru, has retaken
the lead against center-right lawyer Lourdes Flores in Peru's
presidential race, winning over undecided voters, a poll
released on Sunday showed.

According to the Apoyo survey, 32 percent of those
questioned said they would vote for Humala on April 9, a 2
percentage point rise from a poll released on March 12 and a
7-point surge since early February.

However, that is still less than the 50 percent needed to
win the election in the first round.

Flores, who would be Peru's first woman president if
elected and is viewed by international investors as the best
choice for the economy, saw her support drop 3 percentage
points to 28 percent, compared with the March 12 poll.

Humala, a retired army commander who is most popular among
Peru's poor, has the backing of leftist Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez and led polls in early January. But he lost ground
after accusations of human rights abuses in the 1990s.

"Humala's support has risen thanks to those who just a
short time ago said they would scratch their vote or did not
know who to vote for," Apoyo's Director Alfredo Torres said in
El Comercio newspaper, where the poll was published.

The Apoyo poll also found 32 percent of potential voters
had yet to decide whom they would vote for in the election,
down from 41 percent on March 12.

Former center-left President Alan Garcia, who is targeting
younger voters, remained in third place with 21 percent of
voter support, a 1 point slip from earlier this month.

Garcia, who presided over economic chaos and rising Shining
Path rebel violence during his 1985-1990 presidency, has won
back support as a charismatic moderate.

If a run-off election were held in May, both Humala and
Flores were projected to win 50 percent of the vote, the first
time a poll has indicated Flores would not easily beat her
nationalist rival in a second round.

Flores is most popular among Peru's small middle class and
has the support of the country's business leaders.

Humala, who pledges to enforce state control of Peru's key
mining and gas output, is strongest among Peru's poor.

Many are disillusioned with traditional politicians who
have failed to provide jobs and prosperity despite the
country's strong economic performance since 2002.

The poll surveyed 2,000 people between March 15 and March
17 over the age of 18. It was assigned a margin of error of
plus or minus 2.2 percent.