LIMA (Reuters) - Left-wing nationalist Ollanta Humala on Tuesday promised to foster a stable investment climate and defuse social conflicts if he wins a presidential run-off in June that will hinge on swaying centrist voters.
Humala won the first-round of the election on Sunday in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and has struck an increasingly moderate tone to improve his chances in a second-round match against right-wing populist Keiko Fujimori.
With 92 percent of Sunday’s ballots counted, officials said Humala had 31.8 percent of the vote as poor Peruvians left behind by a decade-long boom rallied behind him.
Lawmaker Fujimori, the daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori, was at 23.5 percent, while former Wall Street banker Pedro Pablo Kuczynski had 18.7 percent.
Humala, who narrowly lost the 2006 race after running on a stridently anti-capitalist platform, now says he would uphold concessions given to private companies, respect central bank independence, spend responsibly and honor free-trade pacts.
Those vows have persuaded some on Wall Street he would be a center-left leader like Brazil’s popular former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, but local stock and currency markets have been volatile.
“What does an investor want? An investor wants contractual stability and social peace,” he said on RPP radio.
Humala, who has positioned himself as a man of the people intent on ending poverty that afflicts a third of Peruvians, says he would solve nagging social conflicts that have put in jeopardy some $40 billion in planned mining and oil projects.
Southern Copper, one of the world’s largest copper firms, was forced to delay a $1 billion project in Peru last week after several protesters died in a clash between farmers and police. The government of outgoing President Alan Garcia has been harshly criticized for its failure to mediate in conflicts that often turn violent.
Exporting natural resources is the traditional engine of Peru’s economy, but more that 100 towns nationwide have organized to stop extraction projects over fears they would sap scarce water supplies and cause pollution.
Many economists say the persistent conflicts are one of the largest long-term risks Peru faces.
Peruvians who voted for Kuczynski and other moderate candidates will find it hard to pick between Humala, who has tried to shed his radical image and Fujimori, 35, whose father was imprisoned for corruption and human rights stemming from his crackdown on guerrilla fighters in the 1990s.
Both leaders appeal to the poor in far-flung provinces. Polls have pointed to a virtual tie between them in a run-off.
Capturing the vote of centrists in urban centers who splintered in the first-round of the election will be crucial to winning the second-round.
Humala has distanced himself from his one-time political mentor, Venezuela’s hardline Socialist President Hugo Chavez, a fierce critic of the United States, and credits Lula for twinning effective social programs with economic growth.
“We recognize there is a successful process underway in Brazil, which has accomplished economic growth that combines social inclusion with respect for macroeconomic equilibrium,” Humala said.
Reporting by Terry Wade and Marco Aquino, editing by Anthony Boadle