Keiko Fujimori, the front-runner in Peru’s presidential election, was cleared of trying to buy votes, saving the election from slipping into farce after two other leading candidates were barred and another accused of irregularities. Fujimori didn’t offer or hand out money or gifts in exchange for votes, government news agency Andina reported, citing a ruling by the Lima Centro 1 electoral board. The ruling follows allegations she participated in a ceremony where a member of her Fuerza Popular party gave prize money to the winners of a dance contest. Fujimori has had at least 30 percent support in polls for the past two years and disqualifying her would have thrown the election wide open barely two weeks before the April 10 vote. The electoral board already excluded two of Fujimori’s rivals this month. Moreover, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the second-placed candidate, was accused this week of breaking the country’s new vote-buying rules.
The electoral board’s decision will be seen as unfair by some voters, which may increase Fujimori’s rejection rates, said Maria Luis Puig, an analyst at Eurasia Group, in an e-mailed statement. An Ipsos poll published March 21 showed that the chance of Fujimori losing a run-off vote on June 5 has grown in the past month.
“She remains favored to win, but the exclusion process is going to hit her regardless and therefore will make her victory in a second round more difficult,” Puig said by phone from London before the ruling. “Her support base is particularly strong among the poor, an area where Kuczynski is still struggling to reach.”