May 14, 2006

Humala narrows Garcia lead in Peru’s June runoff

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - Nationalist Ollanta Humala has
narrowed the gap on ex-President Alan Garcia's lead in the
runoff for Peru's presidency but the number of undecided voters
who could determine the election has risen, a poll showed on

Garcia, who is seen as the more business-friendly candidate
despite his 1985-1990 government that left Peru in economic
ruin, has 56 percent of voter support in the June 4 runoff,
versus 44 percent for Humala, the Apoyo poll said.

That compares with 57 percent support for Garcia and 43
percent for Humala, who aims to put more of Peru's economy in
state hands, according to an Apoyo poll on May 5.

The number of voters who plan to spoil their ballots or are
undecided rose one percentage point to 23 percent compared with
last Sunday's poll, Apoyo said.

"Garcia's advantage over Humala is not big enough to
consider him a certain winner," Apoyo's Director Alfredo Torres
said in El Comercio newspaper, which commissioned the survey.
"Those who are undecided or plan to scratch their votes are
especially relevant now."

Some middle-class Peruvians say they plan to spoil their
voting cards because they cannot choose between the two
candidates who both pledge to rewrite contracts with foreign
investors and redistribute more of Peru's mining-generated
wealth to the poor.

They see Humala, who is most popular among the Andean and
jungle poor, as a radical whose nationalist platform would
endanger the country's $75 billion economy.

But many are scarred by Garcia's first presidential term
that produced hyperinflation, food shortages and rising rebel
Shining Path violence. Garcia's supporters say he has learned
from his mistakes.

The candidacy of Humala, who led the first round in April
but failed to attract the 50 percent of voter support needed to
win outright, has been hurt by the support of Venezuela's
President Hugo Chavez because the anti-U.S. leader is generally
unpopular in Peru, analysts say.

The Apoyo poll was carried out between May 10 and May 12
and interviewed 2,000 people over 18 years old, reaching 81
percent of the voting population. It has a margin of error of
2.2 percent.