Alan Garcia favorite in Peru’s presidential runoff

The former president and his nationalistic rival brought their campaigns to close on Friday ahead of Sunday vote.

Thursday’s last minute rallies brought presidential campaign to a close in Peru ahead of Sunday runoff. According to newly released opinion polls, the Socialdemocratic ex-President Alan Garcia has strengthened his lead over nationalistic retired army commander Ollanta Humala by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin.

Garcia brought his campaign to a close with a huge rally in the capital, Lima. Tens of thousands of middle classed supporters listened the flourished rhetoric of the Europe-educated former president: "Peruvians from different regions of the nation are going to come together for victory. The victory of democracy over militarism, the victory of liberty over abuse."

“Bread without freedom is useless, as well as freedom without bread. Our government will bring bread with freedom to all Peruvians”, said Mr. Garcia to the red and white crowd and the TV cameras that aired his speech alive.

Humala, in turn, held his closing rally the evening before, accusing his rival of fear-mongering. He said: "The Peruvian people must understand, and must not be intimidated by this disgusting campaign that only seeks to create fear, create fear in the public so they won't vote for Ollanta Humala." Humala’s speech was not broadcasted alive.

The campaign had only one debate between both candidates, with Garcia clearly defeating his rival who failed to attend on time to the TV studio. There, the expertise and the solid education of the former President was enough to overwhelm the former Army colonel who led a controversial military coup in 2000.

That was the only chance both candidates had to debate ideas, as the one-month campaign was full of insults and agressions from both sides. Garcia has strong support in the wealthier coastal areas of Peru, while Humala's political power base lies in the indigenous central areas of the country.

Garcia, 57, is campaigning as a wise and moderate elder statesman, a reversal from his presidency, when he delighted in tweaking Washington by attempting to persuade Latin American nations to follow Peru's example and limit foreign debt payments.

Campaigning in blue jeans and a red T-shirt, Humala has waged a campaign bordering on class war, saying he will stand up to the elite political, economic and media interests that have long dominated Peruvian politics. Like Chavez and Morales, he says he wants to help the poor by giving the state greater control over foreign-held oil, gas and mineral holdings and to rewrite the country's constitution.

As Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez lacks of internal opposition, he has found time to meddle in other coun try’s affair and the Peruvian election was an excellent opportunity to do it. He openly backed Ollanta Humala calling former President Alan Garcia a “thieve”, in reference to the corruption scandals made public during his administration.

Garcia angrily replied Chavez’s accusations, which were considered by Peruvians as a clear meddling in their internal affairs. Garcia found lately that confronting Chavez added him support and kept the verbal fight. Last week, even Humala had to ask Chavez to close his mouth as his support had a contrarian effect.

The current President, Alejandro Toledo, has added his voice to calls from independent election monitors that Sunday's poll be seen to be fair and transparent.

Hernan Etchaleco

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov