Electoral board in Peru opens inquiry into Kuczynski

LIMA (Reuters) - A lower electoral board in Peru said Wednesday it was opening a formal inquiry into whether presidential hopeful Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the chief rival of front-runner Keiko Fujimori, broke a new law against vote buying.

If electoral authorities find the center-right candidate improperly bought beer and liquor for an Andean town, as alleged by opponents he would be barred from April 10 elections.

Analysts said the board would likely keep Kuczynski in the race, especially after the same lower electoral board cleared Fujimori of similar allegations. The country’s five-member National Jury of Elections is expected to hand down a final ruling on Fujimori this week to settle an appeal.

The National Jury of Elections tossed two presidential hopefuls from the race earlier this month in an unprecedented move that has shaken the legitimacy of this year’s elections and stoked opposition to Fujimori, whom many see as unfairly favored.

Electoral authorities have denied any political bias or wrongdoing and have criticized Congress for passing the new ban on gift-giving by campaigning politicians that allows candidates to be disqualified so close to elections.

Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Andrew Hay