Reuters International

Peru's presidential candidates Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and Keiko Fujimori attend a presidential debate in Lima, Peru, April 3, 2016. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

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By Caroline Stauffer and Mitra Taj

LIMA (Reuters) - The race for second place in the first round of Peru's presidential election on Sunday was still wide open on Friday, with polls split over who would earn the chance to face long-time front-runner Keiko Fujimori in an expected run-off.

A survey by GfK, presented to foreign journalists, showed Wall Street favourite Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in second place with 20.8 percent of valid votes, ahead of leftist Veronika Mendoza who had 16.5 percent, spurring a slight recovery in markets.

The pollster said the survey had a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points up or down, meaning the runner-up position is still locked in a technical tie.

Kuczynski, a 77-year-old son of European immigrants who had struggled to gain traction with poor rural voters in the last election, closed his campaign in the Andean city of Cuzco on Thursday night, fighting the cold with a hat sporting the rainbow colours of the Incan empire.

Fujimori, the daughter of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori, had 40.7 percent of votes in the GfK poll, still short of the 50 percent she needs to ensure an outright victory. Her support has slipped since tens of thousands protested against her earlier this week.

A Fujimori-Kuczynski run-off in June would likely ensure Peru's free-market model of the last quarter century prevails in the top metals producer, no matter the winner.

"Veronika hasn't increased voters so much in recent days. She rose a lot since March but less recently," Urpi Torrado, of pollster Datum, told foreign reporters at a news conference.

Peru's select index rose 1 percent Friday after the GfK survey was released. It had closed down 4 percent on Thursday on concern that nationalist Mendoza could go on to a second-round battle with Fujimori.

Mendoza, dressed in red, chose Lima's historic May 2 Plaza to end her campaign, praising the history of union and human rights protests that had taken place there.

"We aren't here to make adjustments, patches, or to apply makeup, we want a real transformation," she told supporters in a possible jab at outgoing President Ollanta Humala, a former leftist who governed more moderately than expected.

Mendoza would like Peru to become less reliant on mining and wants to curb exports of oil and natural gas to prioritise domestic demand.

A poll by Ipsos obtained by Reuters late on Thursday showed Mendoza tied for second with Kuczynski.

That poll also showed for the first time Mendoza would be tied with Fujimori in an eventual run-off, while former World Bank economist Kuczynski would beat Fujimori.

(Additional reporting by Teresa Cespedes and Ursula Scollo; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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