May 28, 2006

Undecided voters could decide Peru election: polls

By Robin Emmott and Maria Luisa Palomino

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - Ex-President Alan Garcia held a
strong lead over his nationalist rival Ollanta Humala in the
race for Peru's presidency a week before the runoff, but
undecided voters could still alter the result, two polls showed
on Sunday.

An Apoyo survey commissioned by conservative newspaper El
Comercio showed Garcia would receive 55 percent of votes in the
June 4 runoff, compared to 45 percent for Humala.

That was a one-percentage point improvement for Humala and
a one-percentage point loss for Garcia compared to an Apoyo
poll a week ago.

The poll, which surveyed 2,000 people between May 24 and
May 26, had a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points.

Apoyo also carried out a simulation of the June 4 vote in
which respondents' preferences were secret. In that simulation,
Garcia had 52 percent support, to 48 percent for Humala.

"There could be a hidden vote for Humala," Apoyo's Director
Alfredo Torres wrote in El Comercio. "Those voters who today
say they will ruin their vote (rather than choose a candidate)
will be decisive in the final result," he added.

A fifth of voters say they will not pick either candidate
or are undecided, a slightly smaller number than a week ago.

A survey by pollster Datum, which was commissioned by one
of Peru's most popular television networks, Frecuencia Latina,
showed Garcia at 58 percent compared to 42 percent for Humala,
unchanged from a May 22 poll.

The Datum poll also showed a fifth of voters still

The nationwide survey of 1,125 people between May 25 and
May 26 had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

A CPI poll on Saturday also put Garcia well ahead with 59.9
percent to Humala's 40.1 percent.

Humala, a retired army commander, is strongest in Peru's
southern Andes, where he has vowed to lift millions of
Peruvians out of poverty, but has struggled to win support in
Garcia's strongholds of Lima and northern Peru.

Humala proposes to rewrite contracts with mining and
natural gas companies, scrap a free-trade deal with the United
States and industrialize production of coca, the basis for

Garcia, whose 1985-1990 term ended in economic ruin, is
seen by Peru's middle class and investors as the more
business-friendly candidate because he has presented himself as
a moderate centrist.

Humala's radical promises are too extreme for some
Peruvians who say the former soldier would put the country's
economic stability at risk.

But many Peruvians say they are still scarred by the
hyperinflation and food shortages of Garcia's first term.