April 7, 2006

Polls show Peru vote is fight for 2nd place

By Kevin Gray

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - Nationalist Ollanta Humala was seen
keeping his lead in Peru's weekend presidential election but
polls were divided on Friday on whether pro-business candidate
Lourdes Flores or former President Alan Garcia would advance to
a run-off.

A nationwide poll by Lima University showed Humala,
campaigning to restrict foreign investment in Peru, had 29.2
percent support and Flores, a conservative, had 25.6 percent.
The center-left Garcia had 21.9 percent.

Humala would lose the second round against either Garcia or
Flores, the poll found.

A Datum poll showed Humala with 26 percent support and
Flores and Garcia tied at 24 percent. Datum did not look at
possible second round matchups.

"The top three candidates have lost a little bit of support
and could continue to lose support. But it appears that nobody
will win outright in the first round," Luis Benavente, director
of the polling arm of Lima University, told a news conference.

Benavente said support for candidates appeared to be
falling along social and economic lines, with well-to-do
Peruvians overwhelmingly supporting Flores and poor Peruvians
backing Humala or Garcia.

"There is a strong war of fear being waged," he said.
"There is a fear of the rich on one side, and fear of extremism
on the other. People are nervous," he said.

A banner headline in Lima's respected daily, Peru.21, on
Friday captured the mood, saying: "The only thing left to do is

Humala, a self-avowed ally of Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez who formed his nationalist movement only months before
the election, has lashed out at Peru's traditional parties as
"defenders of the interests of the rich."

He has pledged to increase state control over the economy
and block a proposed free-trade agreement with Washington.

An Apoyo poll this week showed Garcia, a former president,
statistically tied for second place with Flores. Many investors
distrust Garcia because of the economic chaos of his 1985-1990
government and pledges to revise utility contracts to bring
down electricity and water prices.

In a run-off, Flores would beat Humala 48.6 percent to 37.3
percent, the Lima University poll said. Garcia would beat
Humala 41.3 percent to 37.7 percent, the survey found.

The Datum survey had a 2 percentage point margin of error
and the Lima University poll had a 2.5 percentage point error
margin. A candidate needs at least 50 percent to avoid a
run-off in early May.

Both polls were carried out on Wednesday.