Ultra nationalist and former Army officer Ollanta Humala is trailing ex president Alan García in the latest public opinion polls for Peru's presidential run off next June 4.
According to the latest Datum survey Mr. Garcia leads with 56% of vote preference compared to 44% for Mr. Humala, having left out all void, blank and undecided votes.
The poll also shows 18% of Peruvian voters recognize Garcia's communicational capacity as one of his assets but 32% admit his great weakness is the memory of his past administration, 1985/1990, which left Peru bankrupt and overwhelmed by political and financial turmoil. Another 16% believe he is dishonest.
The Datum survey covered 1.118 voters, nationwide, between April 29 and May 1 with a plus/minus 3% margin or error.
The New York Times said in an editorial this week said that Peru faces a "looming disaster" given the two "appalling" presidential runoff candidates the electorate must choose from. The "anti-establishment" mood which has spread in South America, "is leading to populist soldiers and a coca growers' leaders taking the presidencies of Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia".
In direct reference to Mr. Humala it states that "now Peru may elect the most dangerous leader yet".
Humala is described as "a military and failed coup plotter whose family advocates the shooting of gays, Jews and Chilean investors". If that were not worrying enough, the paper says that there is "more bad news" since Humala's opponent in the runoff is Garcia, who ruled from 1985 to 1990 and was "a spectacularly irresponsible and corrupt president ... who wrecked Peru's economy and presided over the commission of widespread war crimes". The paper says that this "sorry duo" somehow emerged first and second in a presidential race that "included several excellent candidates."
Humala took a plurality, 31%, in the first round held April 9 and Garcia edged out conservative Lourdes Flores for the second spot in the runoff by half a percentage point.
Although virtually all of Ms Flores' supporters dislike the former president, they appear inclined to vote for him to prevent Humala from gaining power.
Humala, 43, led a failed coup with his brother, Antauro, October 29, 2000 against Alberto Fujimori, shortly before the president, hounded by corruption scandals, fled to Japan.
He was granted an amnesty in 2001 was sent as military attaché to France and South Korea. While in Asia, he began building the political machine that he hoped would take him to the presidency.
During his campaign, Humala has had to defend himself of allegations, which are being investigated by the Attorney General's Office, that he committed human rights violations when commanding a counter-insurgency military base in the jungle region of Madre Mia in the early 1990s. However, allegations have not prevented him from garnering support in Peru for his political proposals.
They include vows to bring about "the transformation of the country" through a constitutional assembly that would draft a new charter to replace the Peruvian 1993 Constitution from Fujimori's administration.