Reuters International

Peru's presidential candidate Veronika Mendoza of 'Frente Amplio' party gives a speech during an event to introduce her team, in Lima, March 28, 2016. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

(reuters_tickers)

By Teresa Cespedes

LIMA (Reuters) - A 35-year-old leftist presidential contender in Peru who is promising a new constitution to weaken the country's business elite jumped 5 percentage points in a poll and was seen as statistically tied at second with investor-favourite Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

Veronika Mendoza, a lawmaker and psychologist by training, would win 17.3 percent of valid votes in the April 10 election, compared with Kuczynski's 18.6 percent, according to a mock voting exercise published Friday by local pollster Datum Internacional.

Longtime front-runner Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of imprisoned ex-president Alberto Fujimori, was 8 points short of the 50 percent minimum needed to win outright, according to the results, which excluded the 14.2 percent of blank or spoilt ballots.

The March 28-30 survey of 1,511 people, who received and filled out simulated voting cards, has a margin of error of 2.5 points.

The Datum poll was the first to show Mendoza head-to-head with ideological opponent Kuczynski for second place, which would allow either of them to tap a resurgence of opposition to Fujimori in a likely June run-off.

However, Fujimori would beat Mendoza by 10 points in a second-round contest with 18 percent of voters undecided, according to Datum. Fujimori and Kuczynski were seen in a dead-heat with 41 and 40 percent of voter intent respectively.

Mendoza, a congresswoman, has proposed replacing the 1993 constitution, enacted by Alberto Fujimori after he shuttered Congress, with a new one that would allow the government to be more active in the mining-fuelled economy.

"Do we want to keep dragging around a constitution written by a dictatorship to guarantee privileges for a few at the expense of the vast majority?" Mendoza said at a press conference earlier this week.

"We want deep and true change, we want radical change," she said.

Mendoza had just one percent of support in opinion polls a month ago and started to climb after two leading candidates were tossed out of the race for breaking electoral rules in a controversial ruling that turned the race on its head.

She was the only leading candidate who climbed in the Datum mock vote from the last one conducted March 17-20.

Mendoza's rise follows widespread criticism of Kuczynski after he said Mendoza had never done anything "in her dog life."

Mendoza has fought allegations that she would lead a government in the mould of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and has called for a new Latin American left that envisions an active role for private investments.

If elected, she would be the first president in Peru to favour broader state intervention in the economy since the 1980s, when then president Alan Garcia nationalized foreign companies.

Mendoza broke with President Ollanta Humala, a former radical military officer, after he turned to the right upon taking office in 2011.

Humala's term ends July 28, and he is constitutionally barred from seeking a second consecutive term.

Peru is a leading minerals producer and is set to become the world's second biggest copper supplier this year.

(Reporting by Teresa Cespedes; Writing by Mitra Taj; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and W Simon)

reuters_tickers

 Reuters International