RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Though Peruvians went to the polls to elect a President over a week ago, they still don't know the results. That's because the leading candidate, an ultra- nationalist, former Army Colonel Ollanta Humala, did not get enough votes to avoid a run-off.
NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports that votes are being recounted on two challengers who are nearly neck and neck.
LOURDES GARCIA: In the main cathedral in the old Inca capital of Cusco, Easter Morning mass is underway. The priest blesses the congregation in the indigenous language of Quechua. The nave is packed. Women in brightly woven skirts with small children kneel on the stone floor because the pews are full.
While this mostly Catholic nation observes one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, politics was briefly put on hold.
About 90 percent of the votes have been counted so far from the April 9th elections. Ollanta Humala has over 30 percent, enough to put him in the second round. The big cliffhanger is who will face him.
Former President, Alan Garcia, is leading only slightly with just over 24 percent of the votes. Right-of-center, Lourdes Flores has 23.5 percent. Both are being counted and recounted. A final tally is not expected until the end of the month.
HUANKA: (Foreign Language Spoken)
GARCIA: Outside the church, Celia Huanka and her husband hock ceramic crosses to the faithful who have come to pray here. She voted for Humala, like many in this area in the highlands of Peru.
CELIA HUANKA: (Foreign Language Spoken)
GARCIA: She says there are a lot of poor people around here, people from the countryside who grow potatoes and corn, and they have to sell it for cheap. Humala worries about the indigenous people, she says.
Before the elections, Humala's promises to tear up free-trade agreements with the United States, industrialize coca leaf production, and redistribute Peru's wealth, made him the favorite of people like Huanka. But he's now facing a difficult run-off with whomever comes in second.
He's been toning down his rhetoric and quoting the country's business elite, saying that he won't nationalize companies, for example. Still, the country is extremely polarized, and many here view him warily.
(SOUNDBITE OF PERUVIAN NEWS BROADCAST)
GARCIA: For now, though, the newscasts revolve around who will come in second place.
Former President Alan Garcia is a left-of-center leader who comes from one of the best-organized parties in the country. But his tenure leading Peru saw the collapse of the economy.
Business leaders see a run-off between him and Humala as choosing between the devil you know and the devil you don't. Pollsters say it would be a tight race.
Lourdes Flores is a former Congresswoman who comes from the right and who wants to continue economic policies here that have seen steady growth. Polls show her beating Humala in the second round. But for now, she is behind in the count. In order to defeat Humala, the two parties may join forces once it's deiced who'll be in the run-off.
Lourdes Flores had this to say when she spoke to reporters on Saturday.
LOURDES FLORES: (Foreign Language Spoken)
GARCIA: She says it's evident that there are two forces in the country. There was, of course, Humala's triumph in the first round. But between Garcia's party and my own, we have 50 percent of the electorate.
The second round is expected to take place in late May or early June.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Lima, Peru.
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