LIMA Left-wing former army commander Ollanta Humala had a narrow lead over right-wing lawmaker Keiko Fujimori in Peru's presidential election on Sunday, pollsters said.
Quick counts of ballots and exit polls by three different survey firms showed Humala with a lead of between 2.6 and more than 5 percentage points, triggering celebrations in Lima's downtown where 5,000 supporters danced, waved red flags and chanted "Humala Presidente!"
"Keiko is done," read one banner as an effigy burned of Fujimori, who worked for her father Alberto Fujimori's government in the 1990s until it collapsed in a cloud of corruption and human rights scandals. "Fujimori never again," read another banner.
Peru's stocks and currency rode a rollercoaster in the weeks before the vote, dropping sharply whenever Humala gained ground against market-favorite Fujimori in opinion polls.
Investors worry Humala will intervene in the economy to tighten state control, and will jeopardize fiscal stability in one of the world's fastest-growing economies by ratcheting up social spending.
Most polls in the run up to the vote showed Humala with a thin lead over Fujimori but locked in a statistical tie after accounting for margins of error.
Peru's economic growth has soared nearly as fast as China's in recent years, but the boom has failed to drag a third of the nation out of poverty.
The votes of Peruvians living abroad could be crucial as they are expected to favor Fujimori, and financial markets are bracing for the prospect of a recount that could run on for days.
Fujimori's father Alberto is credited with paving the way for Peru's economic expansion by forging free trade agreements and taming hyperinflation during his presidency in the 1990s.
But he was later jailed for corruption and for using death squads against suspected left-wing insurgents as he sought to quash an uprising by Maoist Shining Path guerrillas.
As an army commander in 2000, Humala led a bloodless revolt in a bid to topple the elder Fujimori. He insists his radical past is behind him and that he has reworked his policies to get on the same wavelength as moderate Peruvians. He insists investors have nothing to fear.
Humala narrowly lost the 2006 election and has since sought to win over moderate voters by watering down his anti-capitalist rhetoric.
Throughout the campaign, he railed against the 36-year-old Fujimori for her involvement in her disgraced father's government.
(Additional reporting by Terry Wade, Caroline Stauffer, Ursula Scollo, Marco Aquino, Simon Gardner and Alejandro Lifschitz; Editing by Kieran Murray)