Moderate leftist leads in Lima mayoral race, would be first female ever in post

By Franklin Briceno, AP
Monday, October 4, 2010

Lima to have first female mayor ever

LIMA, Peru — A moderate leftist looked Sunday night to be headed by a narrow margin to becoming Lima’s first elected female mayor.

A victory by Susana Villaran would give the left control of Peru’s coastal capital — with 7 million people home to one in three of the Andean nation’s inhabitants — for the first time in nearly three decades.

Villaran, a 61-year-old human rights advocate and former minister of social development and women’s affairs, was leading pro-business candidate Lourdes Flores 38.9 percent to 37.2 percent, according to official results with 13 percent of the vote counted.

An unofficial quick count gave Villaran (Veeh-yah-RAHN) a slightly better than one-point victory over Flores, 50, as Peruvians chose mayors and governors across the country.

Flores has twice lost presidential races while Villaran was a fringe candidate in the 2006 election in which Flores finished third.

The Lima mayor’s race was being watched closely as a barometer of presidential elections due in April. Villaran is not allied with the main leftist contender in that race, populist former military officer Ollanta Humala, though he endorsed her.

President Alan Garcia, who is constitutionally barred from running for re-election, defeated Humala in 2006 in a runoff.

An unorthodox candidate from the middle class who says she smoked marijuana in her youth, Villaran catapulted in popularity in the last few months of the campaign with a pro-environment message, promising to clean up a city with some of the world’s most contaminated air.

She rejects what she has called “the authoritarian militarism” of Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, saying she identifies more with the more moderate leftist leaders of Uruguay and El Salvador.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects spelling of ‘Humala’ in graf 7. For global distribution.)

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