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Ex-president beats nationalist in Peru runoff vote

Written by: Staff
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LIMA, Peru, June 5 (Reuters) Former President Alan Garcia beat a fiery ex-army nationalist in Peru's runoff election, staging a political comeback after his 1980s government ended in economic ruin, rebel violence and accusations of rights abuses.

The result is a blow for Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, who sparked a diplomatic spat with Peru after trying to take advantage of a populist anti-US tide in Latin America by supporting Ollanta Humala, a former army commander.

With 77 per cent of the ballots counted, Garcia, who portrays himself as a left-of-center democrat, won about 55 per cent of the vote and Humala, who spooked many middle-class Peruvians with calls for a revolution against the rich, had some 45 per cent.

Humala conceded at a news conference but vowed to push for his nationalist revolution to help the half of Peru's population living in poverty through his party's 45 seats in Congress, the largest presence in a fractured parliament.

A jubilant Garcia waved a white handkerchief -- a traditional victory symbol of his APRA party -- as thousands of ecstatic supporters gathered outside his campaign headquarters in Lima and fireworks filled the sky. Some sobbed with joy.

''Today, Peru has sent a message of national sovereignty and has defeated efforts by Hugo Chavez to incorporate us in the expansion strategy of his military and backward-looking model, which he's tried to implant in Latin America,'' Garcia said.

Many Peruvians voted for Garcia -- dubbed ''Latin America's Kennedy'' when he was first elected at the age of 35 -- seeing him as the lesser of two evils and less hostile to business.

''It's a sad day. Neither of them is a good candidate,'' said 45-year-old psychologist Ida Blanc after she cast her vote for Garcia in an upper middle-class neighbourhood of Lima.

MORE REUTERS SI RK1138

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