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Peru votes in turbulent election

Millions of Peruvians have headed to the voting booth despite pre-election violence that killed five people. The election has been further marred by the unexpected popularity of the daughter of the country's ex-dictator.

Peruvians went to the polls on Sunday in a tumultuous election marred by allegations of vote-buying,

deadly violence

, and a presidential frontrunner whose father is a former dictator currently imprisoned for ordering massacres. Some 23 million voters were expected to cast their ballots in the nation of 30 million where voting is compulsory.

Tough new electoral laws have seen nearly half the candidates drop out over the course of the election campaign, leaving

right-wing populist Keiko Fujimori as a frontrunner amid claims of wooing groups of the electorate with gifts.

"I have a firm conviction that with God's help I will become the first woman president of Peru," she told thousands of supporters at a rally ahead of the vote.

The 40-year-old is the daughter of Alberto Fujimori, whose dark 10-year reign from 1990-2000 is still fresh in the minds of many Peruvians. He is currently serving a prison sentence for crimes against humanity after courts found him guilty of the murder of 25 people he claimed were terrorists in 1991 and 1992. b#

Maoist rebels in pre-election attack

Some Peruvians, however, have a less negative opinion of the elder Fujimori (and thus of his daughter) for his role in clamping down on the Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path. The long-simmering conflict flared up again on Saturday, however, when four soldiers and one civilian were killed by several Shining Path members who are still hiding out in the jungle.

Three separate opinion polls published on Friday gave Fujimori one third of the vote, clearly ahead of her nearest rivals Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former prime minister and Wall Street banker, and Veronika Mendoza, a left-wing lawmaker. While that places Fujimori in the lead, a candidate must win an outright majority in Peru and so a run-off election in June against whoever finishes second is likely.

es/jlw (AFP, dpa)

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