(Note: election law forbids publication of polls in Peru a week prior to April 10 voting)
* Two polarizing figures may meet in run-off
* Stumbling Toledo calls for united front
* Novelist Vargas Llosa warns of ‘catastrophe’ (Adds Toledo, Vargas Llosa quotes, currency movement)
By Teresa Cespedes and Terry Wade
LIMA, April 7 (Reuters) - Leftist Ollanta Humala is forecast to win the the first round of Peru’s tight presidential election on Sunday and face right-winger Keiko Fujimori in a run-off, two new polls showed on Thursday.
His critics fear Humala might roll back years of reforms that have turned Peru into one of the world’s fastest-growing countries but left a third of Peruvians living in poverty, many of whom are rallying behind the former soldier.
Polls by survey firms CPI and Ipsos Apoyo that were seen by three sources show Humala with 29 and 28 percent of voter support, around seven points in front of Fujimori but well below the 50 percent required for an outright victory.
Peru's currency, the sol PEN=PE, which has slipped on worries about an Humala victory, firmed about 0.4 percent to a two-week high of 2.803 per U.S. dollar on bets that Fujimori, who is viewed as more market-friendly, might be able to beat Humala in a second-round vote on June 5.
Finance Minister Ismael Benavides said some investors “were worried” about the prospect of Humala taking office and raising mining taxes in a top global producer of copper, zinc, gold and silver.
Humala has sought to recast himself as a soft-left leader like Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, though many voters regard him as a hard-liner with an authoritarian streak he developed as an army colonel.
The candidates and their platforms [ID:N25238905]
Full campaign coverage [ID:nVOTEPE]
Key political risks to watch in Peru [ID:nRISKPE]
Chart of poll positions r.reuters.com/vyh88r
PDF report on the race r.reuters.com/qaq88r
Humalas’s main rival Fujimori has her downside too: she is the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, who is in jail for corruption and human rights crimes stemming from his crackdown on rebels in the 1990s.
Fujimori’s opponents are concerned she would free her father, who closed Congress in a power grab blamed for undermining Peru’s democracy. She served as his first lady because he was separated from her mother.
Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who lost to the elder Fujimori in the 1990 presidential race, said neither Humala nor the younger Fujimori would be good presidents.
“It would truly be a catastrophe for Peru,” the Nobel prize winner told CNN in a taped interview broadcast on Thursday.
Humala and Fujimori both have disapproval ratings of about 50 percent, the worst in the race.
But they are expected to move onto the second round as a moderate majority of the electorate splinters between three other candidates: former president Alejandro Toledo, former prime Minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and former Lima mayor Luis Castaneda.
Vargas Llosa said he would vote for Toledo, the architect of Peru’s free-trade pact with the United States who once led the race but has since stumbled in polls. Toledo was the front-runner for much of the campaign but is now fourth.
The CPI poll showed Kuczynski with 19.3 percent of voter support and Toledo down to 15 percent.
Though analysts said a Humala-Fujimori match up was likely, they said both Toledo and Kuczynski still had a chance to reach the second round because many voters were still undecided.
Toledo warned voters that neither of his rivals would be good for democracy in Peru.
“Democracy could be at risk,” he told supporters. He called on Castaneda, Kuczynski and members of the ruling APRA party to form a united front with his Peru Posible party to guarantee that a more moderate candidate makes it to the run-off.
“I call on (them) ... to sit down with Peru Posible to define how we are going to defend democracy in Peru,” he said. (Reporting by Teresa Cespedes and Ursula Scollo; Writing by Terry Wade; Editing by Anthony Boadle)