LIMA: The nail-biter race to become Peru's next president tightened as the daughter of imprisoned ex-president Alberto Fujimori gained ground on her rival thanks to a larger haul of votes trickling in from remote rural areas and embassies abroad.
Former World Bank economist Pedro Pablo Kuczysnki's razor-thin lead over Keiko Fujimori shrank to fewer than 60,000 votes late Monday night. With tallies from more than 95 percent of polling stations processed, Kuczynski had 50.2 percent of the votes compared with Fujimori's 49.8 percent.
While two quick counts showed Kuczynski prevailing in a tight contest, still to be counted are the ballots of 885,000 Peruvians eligible to vote abroad, the majority living in the United States, and who turned out massively for Fujimori in the 2011 election.
About 1.4 percent of the handwritten tallies collected at polling stations are being disputed and were sent to a special electoral board for review.
Both candidates remained silent while awaiting final results even as their aides began to jockey for positions in an eventual alliance in congress, where Fujimori's Popular Force won a solid majority of 73 of 130 seats. Kuczynski's fledgling movement will have just 18, fewer than even the country's main leftist alliance.
While Kuczynski's campaign said it is ready to work with all political groups, supporters of Fujimori expressed doubt that the wounds from the final stretch of the campaign, in which Kuczynski accused Keiko Fujimori of being the harbinger of a "narco-state," could be easily healed.
"They called us drug traffickers, thieves," said Lourdes Alcorta, a congresswoman. "It's going to be difficult for us to hug them."
If Kuczynski holds onto his lead, it would be a stunning turnaround. Fujimori topped a field of 10 candidates in the first round of voting in April and consistently led Kuczynski in polls taken before Sunday's runoff.
Kuczynski, 77, managed to climb back by abandoning his above-the-fray, grandfatherly appeal and attacking his younger, politically sharper rival as a risk to Peru's young democracy.
Playing on memories of Alberto Fujimori's well-known ties to corruption, organized crime and death squads, for which he's serving a 25-year jail sentence, he seized on string of scandals that hobbled Fujimori in the final stretch.
The most notable was a report that one of her big fundraisers and the secretary general of her party was the target of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigation. Peru is the world's largest producer of cocaine.
PPK, as Kuczynski is almost universally known in Peru, also benefited from a last-minute endorsement by the third-place finisher in the first round of voting, leftist congresswoman Veronika Mendoza, the protagonist of a massive anti-Fujimori demonstration last week the likes of which Peru has not seen since the turbulent end of her father's rule 16 years ago.