Peru socialist stretches lead in presidential race, poll shows

Peru's presidential candidate Pedro Castillo of Peru Libre party, who will compete head-to-head with right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori in a second-round ballot in June, arrives at the party headquarters in Lima, Peru

Peruvian left-wing candidate Pedro Castillo has stretched his lead in the Andean country’s presidential election race, according to a poll released Sunday, with almost double the level of support of conservative opponent Keiko Fujimori.

Castillo, who has pledged to draft a new constitution to give the state more control over the economy, was shown with 41.5% support in the poll by the Peruvian Studies Institute (IEP) published in newspaper La República.

Fujimori, the daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori, who supports keeping Peru’s free-market model, had 21.5%, the biggest gap in polls so far ahead of the June 6 run-off vote. All polls have shown Castillo with a significant lead.

The election will be an important crossroads for Peru, the world’s second-largest copper producer, where the sudden emergence of Castillo, a teacher who has won support in the country’s poorer regions, has rattled markets.

Peru’s economy, which grew for years at one of the highest rates in Latin America, sank 11.12% last year due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which is now surging again and straining the country’s health services.

The IEP poll, a telephone survey of 1,367 people between April 17-21 with a margin of error of 2.65%, also showed that 21.2% of people said they would annul their ballot or vote “blank”, while 15.7% remained undecided.

Castillo moved in recent days to cool market fears, saying he would not nationalize companies and strongly rejected comparisons made between him and other far-left Latin American leaders.

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