- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2001

LIMA, Peru — Alejandro Toledo, a shoeshine boy who rose from poverty to become a World Bank economist, defeated ex-President Alan Garcia in Perus presidential election yesterday. It was Perus cleanest election in years.
"Tonight Peruvians celebrate the triumph of democracy," Mr. Toledo, a populist candidate, told thousands gathered in front of the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Lima. "I swear, brothers and sisters, I will never let you down."
He will become Perus first freely elected president of native Indian descent.
With 70 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Toledo had 51.6 percent to 48.3 percent for Mr. Garcia, said Fernando Tuesta, the nations top election official.
"The time has come to extend Dr. Toledo my congratulations for his triumph on this democratic day," Mr. Garcia said, offering his help in the new administration.
Mr. Toledos running mate also praised the outcome. "This is a great stroke of luck for Peru, and Im very excited," said Raul Diez Canseco, Mr. Toledos candidate for first vice president. Peru has two vice presidential posts.
The election came seven months after Peruvians drove authoritarian President Alberto Fujimori from office in a corruption scandal, and signaled a return to democratic voting after elections tainted by fraud.
International monitors — including former President Jimmy Carter — had complained that previous elections were deeply flawed. Yesterday, there were few reported incidents of military or police intervening with voting, illegal proselytizing or any other troubles around the polling places.
"The electoral process today went through without any risk, without any important development," said Perus defense minister, Walter Ledesma.
Mr. Toledo capitalized on his dark, chiseled Indian features and short stature to appeal to a mostly poor Indian and mixed-race population that accounts for more than 80 percent of Perus 26 million people.
Mr. Toledos strength came also from his leadership role in the campaign to unseat Mr. Fujimori, whose regime collapsed in November amid mounting corruption scandals. Mr. Toledo withdrew from a runoff against Mr. Fujimori in May of last year, accusing him of planning to rig the results.
Like Mr. Garcia, Mr. Toledo campaigned largely on a populist platform. He has pledged to create 2.5 million jobs, raise salaries for public workers and lower taxes.
"He headed the fight against Fujimoris corrupt government. He deserves to be president," vegetable seller Apolonio Mayta said before the vote was tallied. The 53-year-old makes a precarious living working off her tricycle in a Lima shantytown.
Mr. Garcia, 52, used scintillating oratory to overcome memories of his calamitous 1985-90 presidency, marred by corruption, guerrilla violence, food shortages and hyperinflation.
In recent weeks, he had narrowed the gap with Mr. Toledo, who only a few weeks ago led most polls by as many as 20 percentage points.
Mr. Garcia returned to Peru in January to seek re-election after nearly nine years in exile waiting for corruption charges against him to expire.
His charisma and ability to transmit hope to Peruvians, especially to young voters who dont remember his government, boosted his candidacy and despite his loss he emerges as Perus strongest opposition voice and a force to be reckoned with in the future.
"His first government left a bad memory, but we should give him another chance," said Maria Moya, a 35-year-old divorced mother of two who moved to Lima from a village in the Andes highlands. "Anybody can make mistakes, and he has said he is sorry for his errors."
The election was marked by skepticism toward both candidates. Many Peruvians viewed Mr. Garcia as a liar and corrupt, and Mr. Toledo as erratic, contradictory in his proposals and power-hungry.
The Datum polling firm didnt release figures on spoiled or blank ballots, but according to the Apoyo polling firm, 16.6 percent of voters said they voided their ballots in disgust. Peruvians are fined if they dont show up to vote.
Enrique Bernales, a constitutional expert, warned that a large percentage of blank or spoiled ballots would produce "a weak government, with a large sector of the electorate that would rapidly turn against it."
One of those who had planned to spoil his ballot was Pedro Borja, 42, who has found only part-time work as a cabdriver since he lost his job at Limas racetrack.
"I remember Alans government. I remember the lines, the money that was worthless," he said, lining up to vote in a soccer field in a working-class neighborhood littered with anti-Toledo fliers.


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