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Toledo wins Peru presidential vote

Toledo and Garcia
Alejandro Toledo gives a victory speech on Sunday at his headquarters in Lima, Peru  


LIMA, Peru (CNN) -- Former president Alan Garcia conceded Peru's presidential vote Sunday to Stanford-educated economist Alejandro Toledo.

Garcia said he extended his hand and his congratulations to Toledo, CNN's Lucia Newman reported Sunday night.

With 75 percent of the vote counted, Toledo had 52 percent to 48 percent for Garcia, said Fernando Tuesta, the nation's top election official.

"Tonight Peruvians celebrate the triumph of democracy," Toledo told thousands of supporters gathered in front of the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Lima. "I swear, brothers and sisters, I will never let you down."

Toledo, who unsuccessfully challenged former President Alberto Fujimori last year, will be the country's first president of Andean Indian ancestry.

Fujimori won a third term despite charges of fraud, but eventually resigned and fled the country.

"I already know who won today's election," said Toledo, 55, after casting his vote. "Because this vote was carried out according to regulations, Peru and democracy have won today."

  AUDIO
Newman

CNN's Lucia Newman describes the scene outside Toledo's headquarters on Sunday evening

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  VIDEO
Peruvian presidential candidate, Alejandro Toledo, credits persistence for his political survival. He talks with CNN's Lucia Newman (June 2)

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CNN's Lucia Newman sits down with Peruvian presidential candidate Alan Garcia (June 2)

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  BIG PICTURE
Change in Peru
 
  PROFILES
 • Alejandro Toledo
 • Alan Garcia
 
  ELECTION WATCH
Peruvian presidential election
 

Economy dominated campaign

Garcia, 52, whose 1985-1990 rule was marked by economic chaos, promised to create jobs and increase wages.

"I'm convinced that today's election, whatever the result, will benefit the country," said Garcia, a left-leaning populist.

Both candidates campaigned on promises of more jobs, more stability and more democracy. But voter apathy threatened to force a light turnout because Sunday's vote was the fourth election in just 14 months.

In April, Toledo won a first-round vote but failed to receive more than 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

Since Fujimori's departure, Peru has been governed by interim President Valentin Paniagua, a low-profile elder statesman who some surveys show is more popular than either candidate. Even Paniagua's government has said whoever assumes power is in for an uphill battle.

The winner will have a huge task of bringing back trust to public institutions discredited after Fujimori's tenure, during which his intelligence services, headed by fugitive Vladimiro Montesinos, allegedly extorted the courts, media and military.

International observers monitored vote

Sunday's vote, as expected, was close.

Voting is compulsory in Peru, but in a sign of voter discontent, about 16.6 percent of those who went to the polls either left their ballots blank or spoiled them, according to exit surveys by Apoyo, Opinion y Mercado.

During the campaign, Toledo faced charges of fathering an illegitimate child and using cocaine, which he denied. Still, those charges, combined with the track record of Garcia's last administration, left a number of voters unhappy with their choices.

About 15 million people were eligible to vote.

International observers were on hand to monitor the voting, including former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who said Sunday that the balloting appeared to be "going smoothly."

International officials are hopeful that the selection of a new president can provide stability to Peru, which fought off a rebel insurgency in the early 1990s and has been roiled by political unrest for more than a year.

"It is of concern to the United States and to the international community if a country is able to run itself so that there are not areas that are not under the control of the government where terrorist groups are able to operate, where there is a cross between terrorism and narco-trafficking," Albright said.

CNN Correspondent Lucia Newman contributed to this report







RELATED STORIES:
RELATED SITES:
• Presidency of Peru (in Spanish)
• Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru
• Congress of the Republic of Peru

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