October 4, 2010 / 3:30 AM / 8 years ago

Progressives, independents lead Peru regional vote

* Moderate leftist seen winning Lima’s vote for mayor

* Independents expected to win in regions

* Ruling party likely to have weak showing

By Patricia Velez and Teresa Cespedes

LIMA, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Progressives and independent politicians were expected to win key posts in regional elections held in Peru on Sunday, which could shake up the race for the presidency just six months before ballots are cast for a new leader.

According to a nationwide poll by Ipsos Apoyo, Susana Villaran, 61, who represents a clutch of small left-wing parties, will be elected mayor in Lima, the capital, where about a third of all voters reside.

She leads Lourdes Flores, a conservative widely seen as lacking charisma, by 38.5 percent to 37.4 percent of respondents. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point.

A victory by Villaran, who needs a plurality to win, would mark the first time in three decades that a progressive or leftist candidate has been elected mayor in Lima. Her quick rise in the polls prompted some investors to say voters in the presidential election in April may be less predictable than forecast.

Others said a victory by Villaran would be based on local issues and not reflect any change in the mostly conservative ideological preferences of Peruvian voters.

Villaran has said she would review the fiscal accounts of Lima to make sure they are transparent. That pledge, if fulfilled, could hurt the presidential hopes of Luis Castaneda, a conservative who is the incumbent mayor of Lima and ranked second in polls for the presidency, said analysts at Global Source Partners, a consultancy.

Castaneda has been criticized for cost overruns on public works projects and has denied corruption allegations by his critics.

According to recent polls, Castaneda is trailing front-runner Keiko Fujimori, a conservative lawmaker who is the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, by several percentage points.

Despite her leftist roots, Villaran favors private investment in the Andean country of 29 million people, where the economy is expected to surge up to 8 percent this year.

Villaran, who has not said who she might support in Peru’s presidential race, has said she favors moderate leftists like Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and disapproves of more stridently socialist leaders like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Elsewhere, the APRA party of President Alan Garcia was forecast to win at most one governorship of the 25 up for grabs, Ipsos Apoyo said.

Although the economy has boomed under Garcia, who has attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment, his approval rating has hovered around just 30 percent. He will leave office in eight months at the end of a five-year term and is prohibited from running for a second consecutive term.

Most of the regional governors races were expected to be won by relative newcomers running on tickets independent of traditional parties.

If these candidates win, it would suggest the pull of Garcia’s APRA, along with other traditional parties, has weakened considerably. (Additional reporting by Marco Aquino and Emily Schmall; Writing by Terry Wade)

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